‘Postmemory’ describes the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviors among which they grew up.
And yet, at the same time, this is exactly the crux of the second generation’s difficulty: that it has inherited not experience, but its shadows. The uncanny, in Freud’s formulation, is the sensation of something that is both very alien and deeply familiar, something that only the unconscious knows. If so, then the second generation has grown up with the uncanny. And sometimes, it needs to be said, wrestling with shadows can be more frightening, or more confusing, than struggling with solid realities.Hoffman
2005, p. 66
the shadows thrown by experiences may not be the experiences themselves, but they have the shape and possibly even the texture of those experiences, and they seem capable of passing across boundaries, of seeping from one person to nother.Stephen Frosh
Those who come after – Postmemory, Aknowledgement and Forgiveness
Faced with suffering that we cannot fully understand, we either shut ourselves off from it (denial and forgetting of troubling occurrences being prevalent in everyday life), or we keep worrying away at it until it begins to make some sense.Stephen Frosh
Those who come after – Postmemory, Aknowledgement and Forgiveness p.4
Sometimes what haunts us is a hurt we have suffered, or one we have caused others; sometimes it comes from elsewhere, as in the example of a previous generation; very often it is some kind of unmourned loss.
The urgency of the problem of how to learn from the relatively recent past in order not to repeat its devastating effects, a problem that revolves around the ethics of memory and history, has combined with an awareness that later generations of victims and perpetrators – the ‘post-’ generations – may find themselves inhibited in relation to moving forwards precisely because they are not truly ‘post-’ at all.
The postgeneration has a different experience of events than the ‘original’ one, for what is being remembered is not the event but the feeling or sensation.
‘Postmemory’ describes the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. Postmemory’s connection to the past is thus actually mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection and creation. To grow up with overwhelming inherited memories, to be dominated by narratives that preceded one’s birth or one’s consciousness, is to risk having one’s life stories displaced, even evacuated, by our ancestors. It is to be shaped, however indirectly, by traumatic fragments of events that still defy narrative reconstruction and exceed comprehension. These events happened in the past, but their effects continue into the present.Marianne Hirsch (2012) – The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture
After the Holocaust.