This review outlines the conceptual foundations of collective memory research from social scientific and semiotic perspectives. It locates collective memories in publicly circulating signs, merging a semiotic orientation with Nora's (1989) notion of memory sites. It elucidates how collective memories are made, remade, and contested through circulation enabled by semiotic processes of entextualization and erasure that produce cartographies of communicability. It shows how recent analytic work in linguistic anthropology focused on temporality can be mobilized to understand the concrete semiotic and discursive mechanisms by which the past is selectively brought into the present for strategic ends. It concludes by highlighting two promising directions for further inquiry in collective memory research: the role of expert knowledge and the importance of embodied performance. Overall, the review suggests that a semiotic perspective offers an analytically precise way of mapping the processes by which representations of past events are transformed, transmitted, and contested in charged present contexts.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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