Collective Memory and the Stranger: Remembering and Forgetting the 1918 Finnish Civil War

Piotr M. Szpunar


Collective remembering is central to forming the bonds that constitute a group’s identity. This identity is not only communicated between group members but also projected outward. That is, a group displays or stages its past for strangers who find themselves in a foreign country or context. These stagings are interesting and important because they are often a stranger’s only glimpse into how the group collectively remembers important events of its past. Contemporary societies are enthralled by memory, in part out of concern with how their memory and identity are communicated to outsiders. Using the case study of Tampere, Finland, and its collective remembering of the Finnish Civil War of 1918, this article addresses the stranger’s position in examining a collective’s efforts to project its identity through memory. It thus highlights the challenges and advantages (methodological and other) of studying the workings of memory from outside the group that is the focus.

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