The Relationship Between Memory and Culture, Free Essay

Published: 2022-03-23
The Relationship Between Memory and Culture, Free Essay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1439 words
12 min read

Memory, as a phenomenon in sociology, refers to the ability of either an active or inactive system to react to actions through storage of relevant information and the subsequent structural modification to facilitate response. Subsequently, it allows for response of similar occurrences in future. In the human body, memory is facilitated through minds ability to recall and recognize past events before responding to them. On the other hand, culture refers to the collective to the values, beliefs and expressive symbols practiced by a specific set of individuals. Ideally, the concept of culture is usually common among individuals who have common beliefs.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Analyzing the relationship between memory and culture posts a question of scale. Although the two are engaged at the most personal level of an individual's well-being, they are also present in the in society through the facilitation of an expansive and connected array of human relationships. The manifestation brings rise to the development of the memory-culture relationship. The objective of the essay is to explore the existing relationship between memory and culture as well as the influence of both concepts on collective memory.

Nature of the Relationship

Over the years, psychologists have conducted studies on the mental processes that are required for the remembrance of words, names, and events. Conclusions made from the studies view memory as an interpersonal process which extends to the family. Ideally, there has been increased interest from research circles particularly scholars who focus on understanding how memory is related to human identity, history, and culture. Correspondingly, sociologists interested in the impact of social living on human memory find the concept of collective memory as quite significant. Therefore, it is not possible to consider a person and ignore their cultural identity.

According to Geertz (1987), human beings usually conform to the past through aspirations and individual images constructed by the mind. Whether such thoughts are grand or tarnished, big or small, history remains an important element that alters our thoughts along cultural beliefs. Thus memory is viewed as either a macro or micro process. In understanding the intricate nature of the relationship between memory and culture, one should consider the arguments made by Arno Mayer, an author who narrates about the Holocaust. Mayer claims that memories are present in an individual and at the same time, intersect with impersonal memories of a particular group belonging to the person. Consequently, collective memory arises as a result of individual memory and culture (Geertz, 1987).

The most obvious relationship between memory and culture involves their ability to give rise to individual and collective understandings. The relevance of the leap from individual to societal memory has received a lot of criticism from several sociologists who view the outcome as a metaphoric manifestation. However, it becomes quite difficult to differentiate the aspect of collective memory and culture, Culture, like memory, is usually acknowledged, experienced and subjected at the individual level rather than collective level through senses (Misztal, 2005). Moreover, it is through social interaction that the culture fully develops in society at family, national and global levels. Thus, plots, protagonists, and narratives in culture are developed through concretization and communication.

In spite of the close relationship, it is usually a challenge to combine memory and culture since the latter involves a depiction or perhaps materialization of the former. Links between memory and culture are not quite recognizable as many sociologists think or appear in another individual's understanding. In the analysis of these associations, it is prudent to conduct studies that focus on comprehending the differences that exist between individual memory and collective memory.

Influence of Memory and Culture on Collective Memory


Despite the implantation of false memories upon the exposure to social stimuli, studies examining the implications of social interactions on memory indicate that such communications are important for shaping collective memories. Olick and Robbins (1998) posit that is memory is not an unchanging vessel for the conveyance of past experience to the presence. Alternatively, the authors describe memory as a process which operates at distinct points in time. The concept of memory as a study of collective mentality provides an in-depth interpretation of culture and society which is normally absent in the history of memory that tends to focus on distinct memories.

Olick and Robbins (1998) also argue that shared generations act as a conceptual tool for making comparisons between individual and collective identities structured through shared memories. The assumption from the argument posed by Olick and Robbins suggests that social and cultural events create generations. Consequently, these generations form the basis for shared experiences shared throughout the years (Olick & Robbins, 1998). For instance, the First World War generated a felt society of experience, particularly among soldiers. The shared experiences among the soldiers facilitate the creation of common beliefs and ideologies regarding the nature of warfare. The apparent episodic memory of historical events absent the emotion to individual ownership is understood through the context involving various interrelated memory processes which wok in unison to create a collective memory.


According to Gedi and Elam (1996), collective memory acts as a tool for classification of people who share similar cultural beliefs. Ideally, most countries such as the United States consist of various multicultural groups. Most postmodernists share the claim that dominant ideologies prosper in cultures which uphold consumerism, an unrestricted market economy, and individualism as expressions of identity. The general observation is that the world is occupied by several competing ideologies that require recognition and adherence. From this assertions, it is ideal to define the cultural terrain as one which is hampered by collective memories meant to characterize the contemporary society.

Alluding to the United States, one can describe the nation as one which is culturally pluralist. The country consists of several subcultures that coexist through an "American culture." The culture is quite vague and limited in terms of believers and content which no one has ever succeeded in delineating adequately. Despite the nation's multicultural status, there are various ideologies. The ideologies comprise of various principles, views, attitudes, and beliefs which are accommodated and practiced within specific effective and dominant cultures (Wuthnow & Witten, 1988). The dominant cultures subdue inferior ones through the dissemination of ideologies which are effectively practiced by the majority. Subsequently, it contributes to the classification of people through collective memories.

Correspondingly, arguments concerning cultural ideologies and to some extension, nostalgia, require a consideration of the role of mass media in determining personal and cultural memories. In terms of the collective aspect of memory, Misztal (2005) describes the concept as an intricate process which involves an individual's memory and their culture. Furthermore, the complex nature of the memory and its functioning are derived from the two things namely in memory namely, individual consciousness and corporeity. A study conducted by Kansteiner (2002) concerning individual and collective memory identify the private and public representations of memory and their effect in human collective memory. It was discovered that private memories do not possess the ability to be decoded from the impacts of historical dialogues. The implications of these findings suggest that private memories provide a rich source of culture.


Memory and culture have a symbiotic relationship which cultivates the development of collective memory. In consideration of the positive impact of individual memory on collective aspect, one should also ponder on the influence of culture on the same. Ideally, human beings usually relate their past experiences in relation to their cultural beliefs and understanding of the events. Consequently, it enables human beings to conform to the past through memories created by the mind with the manifestation giving rise to the development of the memory-culture relationship. The outcome of the relationship gives rise to the individual and collective memories. Culture and memory are acknowledged, experienced and shared at both individual and collective level through intelligence. Memory and culture influence on collective memory through interactions which subsequently aid in the shaping of collective memories. Despite the positive relationship between culture and memory in influencing collective memories, sociologists should undertake more studies to focus understand the differences that exist between singular and collective memory.


Gedi, N., & Elam, Y. (1996). Collective Memory-what is it? History and Memory, 8(1), 30-50.

Geertz, C. (1987). The Interpretation of cultures'-Thick description toward an interpretative theory of culture. Aut Aut, (217-18), 151-176.

Kansteiner, W. (2002). Finding meaning in memory: A methodological critique of collective memory studies. History and Theory, 41(2), 179-197.

Misztal, B. A. (2005). Memory and the construction of temporality, meaning and attachment. Polish Sociological Review, 1, 31-48.

Olick, J. K., & Robbins, J. (1998). Social memory studies: From "collective memory" to the historical sociology of mnemonic practices. Annual Review of sociology, 24(1), 105-140.

Wuthnow, R., & Witten, M. (1988). New directions in the study of culture. Annual Review of Sociology, 14(1), 49-67.

Cite this page

The Relationship Between Memory and Culture, Free Essay. (2022, Mar 23). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism