A divergent collective memory could help explain why the political crisis lasted so long in Belgium

From Memory Studies

This paper offers findings from research that give insights into the political crisis in Belgium. Researchers from various Belgian and American universities conducted a study and provided reflections on the crisis, which has now been resolved, nearly 18 months after the general elections in June 2010. Their focus was on the way memories of past events affect current political and inter-group relations. According to the researchers, the political crisis could be partly explained by divergent and sometimes opposite memories which the two linguistic groups hold about the past. These divergent memories come from multiple domains: linguistic, historical and economic.


The formation and maintenance of a collective memory depends the psychological efficacy of societal practices. This efficacy builds on the strengths and weakness of human memory. We view the articles in this special issue through a psychological lens in order to explore how the efficacy of the actions of the distinctive linguistic communities in Belgium have preserved some aspects of their past and left other aspects forgotten. We highlight four ways the psychology of individual memory can bear on the formation and maintenance of collective memories: the efficiency of actions, the presence of inaction, the relevancy of the personal past, and ‘presentism’.

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Article details
Hirst, W., & Fineberg, I. (2011). Psychological perspectives on collective memory and national identity: The Belgian case Memory Studies DOI: 10.1177/1750698011424034

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