Title: Memory and Utopia : The primacy of intersubjectivity

Author:Luisa Passerini


Publisher: Equinox : London; Oakville


1. The first meaning of "subjectivity" in historical context is an answer to the question, who are the subject of history, and how does their ability to make decisions manifest itself?......The second meaning of subjectivity refers to its character as an inheritance, passed down and constantly renewed, a field which I have sometimes defined as "accumulated subjectivity" and which has its origins in Durkheim's "collective representations," Maurice Halbwach's "collective memory," and the "mentalit&eacoute;s" of Annales. This is the field identities of the imagination, as a form of shared subjectivity through time and space........The third set of meanings has to do with historians' own subjectivity, and with intersubjectivity. - p2-3

2. In this approach, intersubjectivity refers essentially to relationships between different generations of historians and the interpersonal nature of knowledge, as erll as to the sprcific quality of the relationship between teacher and student (Passerini 1991c). -p3

3.The quality of intersubjectity is present in a term that has recently established itself in the language of a number of disciplines :"memory work", and expression that refers to the potentialities of intersubjectivity as remembrance, or intersubjectivitive memory. - p5

4. As we carried out our research and wrote up the results, the primacy of intersubjectivity acquired, in my view, a new importance, which asl affected our methodological and interpretative approach.-p6

5. I see now a crucial change in the configuration of intersubjectivity, due to the general change of the cultural global context, where there is no longer a shared framework of political attitudes with which one could take similar or differing positions, This lack might be positive in the long run, as it might let new and less Westernocentric forms of politics emgere.-p7

6. This is possible only if the subject is conceived of not as unitary but as self-reflexive, capable of reflecting upon itself and of being ironical; intersubjectivity is rooted in the process of its own formation; in other words, the subject is shaped through the relationship with the other. Intersubjectivity defines the terms of the cluster of ideas that lies as the centre of this collection. -p8

7. The connection between subjectivity and gender is thus fundamental, in the sense suggested by Sally Alexander (1994: 19), underlining the innovations introduced into the epistemological status of history from a feminis perspective...... -p9

8. ......[W]e must make the concept of "subjectivity" as flexible and wide as possible in order to accommodate all the possible devices and inventions of the subject. -p34

9. Already we have encountered two meanings of subjectivity. While the first insists on the capacity to imagine, think and decide one's life, the second refers to the relationship between subjects in the field of knowledge. In fact, the specificity of the age we are living through is determined by two concomitant processes: the great changes in the cultural, social and economic lives of women, on the one hand, and the "death of the subject" in scientific fields, on the other. The first process is often called emancipation, which for many women includes working also outside of the house and the domestic environment, being able to use contraceptives, achieving high levels of education, having access to various kinds of relationships, wearing whatever they like......The second process, the so-called death of the subject, refers in the first place to philosophy and theory, and has had a decisive influence on many disciplines -p35~36

10. I have choosen three knots, corresponding to an interwinning of differet temporal dimensions, to illustrate the historical debates on subjectivity.......(First Knot) When I became a faminist, in 1970, "subjectivity" had mainly an oppositional meaning. It meant being alternative, different, engaged in changing oneself and the world.......(Second Knot) Another major feminist debate concerns the location of subjectivity between experience and discourse.......(Third Knot) A third knot involves what at first sight appears to be a grammatical question: does subjectivity have a plural and can it stand adjectives? The problem does not invile the word "subject," which stands very well in both its plural and and adjectival forms.-p43~48

11. The revolution in knowledge was closely linked with the sexual revolution; this was meant to include the body in the field of knowledge, establishin new relationships between bodies and new frontiers for exploration in the process of knowing. Subjects were conceived as embodied, and this came to acquire its full significance with the women's movement, from whom it meant gendered subjects.-p57~58

12.At this point I have introduced the concept of utopia, although in 1968 thisterm was not used. According to Fachinelli, it is the relationship of the the subject to its desire (let me treat the subject as neuter, referring to that area of subjectivity which is not immediately gendered) which suggests the utopia dimension for '68, as a "utopia" of desire put into practice.-p59 13. Two aspects of the current debate are relevant for the historical conceptualization of 1968: the first is the stress on the element of order and normativity present imany utopias, in a more or less evident way.......Since normativity is present in any effort to save the identity of a group or individual, there are links between identity, utopia, and totalitarianism (Niethammer 2000b). A second aspect of the debate is the emphasis of the link between a general sense of death and the end of utopia.- p61

14. We can discern in a grotesque from various elements of that "utopia," for instance, the ways in which the personal has become political: see the relevance given by the media to events such Tony Blai's paternity, the bisexuality of an Italian minister, or President Clinton's sex life. The boundary between public and private has been moved - bit in a form that is a caricature of that envisaged by the 1968 movements.-p73

15. From a historiographical point of view, the conceptual triangle composed of subjectivity, utopia and desire can help us to further comprehend '68. Utopia is innovated by the non-hierarchical conception of subjectivity, while subjectivity is embodied, and translated into intersubjectivity, by desire; at the same time, utopia allows the concreteputting into practice of desire. -p74

16. It was indeed during the 1960s that Europe began to be posed as a problem, along withthe idea of "identity" - a term which had hardly been used until the 1950s, and which began to be employed more frequently as a result of the new social, cultural, ethnic and reginal movements.-p79

17. In reference to Europeanness, it has been noted (A.D. Smith 1992) thatt the number and extension of currently possible cultureal identities has increased: the identities based on gender and generation are vital, those based on class and religion continue to exercise an influence, but professional, civic and ethnic identities have also proliferated and attract increasingly large groups all oer the world......In regard to this central problem, the concept of "multiple identity" is limited to underlining the quality of tolerance and to allowing for some potentialities. It remains, however, conceptually undifferentiated and undefined, as does its correlated, multiculturalism, in the sense that both these terms and concepts(multiple identities and multiculturalism, emile interpretation) lack a description of the power disparity between the subjects and the forms of subjectivity that the denote.-p85

18. For many years, forms of European identity were also - but not only - bult up through contrast (Mayne 1972) and oppositions, creating various forms of orientalism and occidentalism.-p88

19. From this prospective, Europen cultural identity takes a step forward towards the world and makes a commitment towards the unification of humanity, not in the guise of a counter position or an hegemony, but as a reversal of most European history and as a duty to be undertaken in the name of the future.-p90

20. For example, multiplicity takes on twofold meaning: first, in regard to European identity, belonging to the continent is not only not intrepreted as dominant (that is to say, it is not the value tht hierarchically organizes a whole set of other values). Secondly and above all, identity can include being European, being born in Africa, being male and of Jewish origin, as well as belonging to a certain generation and social class, with the understanding that al these determinations are not thrown together higgledy-piggledy in an exaltation of undifferentiated multiplicity.-p93

21. It also means hoping that they will always allow irony to be shown towards themselves and towards the illusions of grandeur and the hegemonic expectations of the old subject.-p95

22. At any rate, use of the term "identification" seems pertinent for the historian's work, since it emphasizes both the dynamic element and the factor of personal choice.-p98

23. It also meant creating and identifying with those segments of the left and the new left that referred explicitely to the working classes as the privileged subject of social and political change (a more or less dilated proletariat depending on the various interpretations of the term).-p99

24. A new and critical meta-geography will combat residual Eurocentrism (as well as new forms of centrism, such as Afro-centrism), without completely abandoning the notion of continent, and aiming instead at a spatial imaginary with no special primacies, thus engaging in thorough critique but avoiding nominalistic deconstruction: Europe, for example, may not be continent, but it does effectively label an area that can be defined as a cultural region (Lewis and Wigen 1997).-p107

25. The new utopia "can establish a critical resistance to market relationship, a resistance which is necessary for the creation of spaces where specific inventions can take place and professional skill take forms leading to interrogation and dialogue," thereby accepting the responsibility of sites and their history (Gregotti 1999:177).-p111

26. The role of emotions, through the mediation of language, thus becomes crucial - although not immediately, but as a horizon of self-recognition and intersubjectivity exchange. - p111