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Call for papers

Call for papers: Constructing the Social (and Individual) World: Myth, Memory, and Identity

MemoScapes. Romanian Journal of Memory and Identity Studies

 

Coordinator of this issue: Claudia-Florentina Dobre

15 of October 2017

 

In our long journey through history, myths have always been with us. They flourished in ancient Greece as works of fiction being later contrasted with logos by the Christians. The Enlightenment seemed to spell myth’s doom. But even relegated to “untruth” status, myth remained important in the debates that shaped the ideals of critical thinking and rationalism.

Myths entered a new life once scientific anthropology was set on firm grounds. Anthropologists like Claude Lévi-Strauss contributed decisively to the change in the perception of myths. Lévi-Strauss saw myth as a universal – something that can be grasped by people across the world.[1] Mircea Eliade saw myth as narrating an event that took place at the beginning of historical time that might explain how a significant element of the world – an island, a plant species, a human custom, or an institution – came into being trough the agency of supernatural entities.[2]

Eliade insisted that each time a myth is told, the sacred time of the events narrated in the myth is, in a sense, brought back to life.[3] The act of narrating the myth and thereby ritually re-enacting it has the effect of suspending historical time and enabling the individual to transcend time and space. What is more, by narrating the exemplary deeds of supernatural beings, myths put forth an ideal of human conduct.[4]

Myths occupied a well-defined place in the life of traditional societies, as anthropologists have shown. By contrast, modern society has banished mythical thought as a matter of principle, but proved unable to do away with myths completely. Cornelius Castoriadis pointed out that no society can survive without symbolic constructs that can give meaning to its social life. For Castoriadis, Western society, modern and postmodern, seems to exhibit to an even greater degree the work of the social imaginary, at once instituted and instituting (that is to say, itself structured by existing historical factors while at the same structuring the emergence of novel practices and ideas).[5] Even in the guise of ideological and nationalist narratives, myths preserve their status as fundamental beliefs that can confer meaning upon the imagined destiny of the community.

Anthropologists, historians, and political scientists have found that the myths of our contemporary world are not fundamentally different from the myths of traditional societies. Their content is equally fluid, their contours are similarly ambiguous, and they display the same openness to different cultural influences.[6] As an integral part of the social imaginary, political, national, and identity myths give access to a system of interpretation and a model of social conduct.[7] They build creatively on a narrative core so as to meet the demands for making sense of the world, and buttressing social identities.[8] They provide individuals with interpretive schemes for making sense of their microcosm.[9] Myths often take the form of narratives on which individuals draw to structure their personal experiences.[10] On the other hand, for Roland Barthes, myth plays a communicative function; myth being a ‘message’.

Among the roles filled by myths in modern and postmodern society a few are worth highlighting: as tools for self-definition and identity transfer, as agents of social cohesion, as vehicles for the transmission of cultural and ideological values, and as legitimizing narratives for various political movements and regimes.[11]

Myths truly come to life when they are rooted in a shared collective memory. This shared memory of historical events and characters might even be viewed as a precondition for the successful transmission and implantation of myths. This living memory of places, characters, and events plays the key role in the genesis, diffusion, and persistence of myths. Doubtless political and cultural myths are imagined constructs, but they start from real historical facts which are reworked and fed into a discourse aimed at building social cohesion. However, one should keep in mind that collective, historical memory is always a reconstruction of the past according to the needs of the present (or at least under the influence of present events, which enter a dialogue with the past, as it were).[12] Political and national myths are closely tied to the processes of historical remembrance and historical amnesia, which are vital in the life of any community.[13]

We welcome articles that address the complex process through which memories are transformed into myths. This problematic interplay between memory and myth-making might be analysed in conjunction with the role of myths in the political and social life of nations, regions, etc. We are interested in papers dealing with myths as means of creation of national, local, collective, and even individual identities. We look for papers that show how the mythological dimension of traditional societies continued to play a role in our contemporary world, inasmuch as the new cultural/political myths reused many of the symbols that defined the earlier mythology. We welcome articles that address the issue theme from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Full article manuscripts of no more than 7500 words must be submitted to the editors by 15 of October 2017 for peer review.  For further details, please look at the style guide on our website: http://studii-memoriale.ro/index.php/revista-memoscapes/info-for-authors-style-guide/

[1] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie structurale, Paris, 1958, p. 232.

[2] Mircea Eliade, Aspects du mythe, Gallimard, 1963, p. 15.

[3] Mircea Eliade, Imagini si simboluri(Images and Symbols), Humanitas, 1994,  p. 70-71.

[4] Mircea Eliade, Aspects du mythe, Gallimard, 1963, p. 18.

[5] Cornelius Castoriadis, L’institution imaginaire de la société, Seuil, 1975, 174-248.

[6] Raoul Girardet, Mituri şi mitologii politice (Myths and Political Mythologies),  Institutul European, Iaşi, 1997, p. 6.

[7] Lucian Boia, Pour une histoire de l’imaginaire, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1998, p. 40-41.

[8] Chiara Bottici, Benoit Challand, Imagining Europe. Myth, Memory, Identity, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2013 , p. 91.

[9]Lucian Boia, op.cit.

[10]Chiara Bottici, Benoit Challand, op.cit.

[11] George Schöpflin, “The functions of myths and a taxonomy of myths”, in Geoffrey Hosking, George Schöpflin, eds., Myths and Nationhood, Routledge, New York, London, 1997, p. 22-26.

[12] Maurice Halbwachs, Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire, Paris, Albin Michel, 1994.

[13] Pierre Nora, Les lieux de memoire, Gallimard, Paris, vol. 1, p. XV-XXIV.

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