If Parties Are Battles, What Are We? Practising Collectivity in Memory Work

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Memory-work was original devised by Haug and others (1987) who explained the method to an English speaking audience in Female Sexualization: A collective work of memory. In this paper, I consider the rationale for and the explanation of the “collective subject” in memory-work. Undertaking memory-work can involve a tension between exploring and eliding difference in the group. However, the implications of Haug’s particular understanding of collective subjectivity are an overemphasis on identifying commonalties between group members’ positions and ideas, at the expense of interrogating difference. Adopting Haug’s approach to collective subjectivity entails the risk that persistent divisions between people will be understood in terms of individual ignorance or personal instabilities. I propose an anti-foundational understanding of collective subjectivity (Butler, 1992). This doesn’t mean negating the importance of collectivity. Neither does it mean assuming that it will emerge, nor explaining its absence in terms of the group’s or an individual’s failure. Rather, an anti-foundationalist approach involves questioning the emergence of collective subjectivity. I conclude by reflecting on the implications of my discussion of collective subjectivity for analysing the discussions produced in memory-work.
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