Students on a theater trip in Iceland.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

Intergenerational Memories of Important Events: The Intersection of the Personal and the Historical - William Hirst

Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center (Q-801) | 6, rue du Colonel Combes
Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - 18:30 to 20:00

How people remember historical events from a relatively recent past rests in part on the way older generations talk to younger generations about them. An older generation may convey facts, such as those that might be found in the standard history textbook, but they also can offer personal stories. Such intergenerational discussion of both facts and personal stories can give resonance to an historical event that a simple reading about the event in a textbook might fail to do. This benefit of intergenerational conversations holds particularly for personal stories. Learning that your mother hid out in a basement as Dresden was being bombed could potentially change both the presence and the meaning the bombing has for you. In the past few years, some of my colleagues and I have examined intergenerational memories of various historical and historically relevant personal events: memories of WWII, from three generations of Belgians; memories of the 1976 Junta and the 2001 Economic Crisis, from two generations of Argentines; and memories of 9/11, from two generations of Americans. The manner by which memories are transmitted, the character of intergenerational memories, and the factors affecting their transmission will be analyzed and discussed.

William Hirst is the Malcolm B. Smith Professor of Psychology at The New School in New York City. Hirst is a prominent scholar of memory, and in recent years, his research has focused on how people remember public events, how social interactions shape these memories, and how communities come to share memories. Hirst has been at the forefront of the effort to find a place for psychology in discussions of collective memory, and to underscore the relationship between memory and the ways in which societies address past grievances and actions. Hirst received his PhD from Cornell University. He has published over 140 scholarly articles and edited four books and four special journal issues.