Remembering People’s Sovereignty Through Active Forgetting

By: Youngkwan Ban  

This paper examines how South Koreans have chosen the collective memory of Moo-hyun Roh – a famous but “unsuccessful” politician (The Dong-a Ilbo, 2006) who committed suicide in May 2009 – based on the forgetting that was actively practiced (Nietzsche, 1997). Work in memory studies has identified remembrance as being produced by networks of conflicting meanings and competing claims to the ownership of history and memory among individuals, among groups, and among individuals or groups and the state (Bodnar, 1994; Greenberg, 2006; Rothberg, 2009; Schwenkel, 2006; Sturken, 1997; Verdery, 1999). However, the role that forgetting plays in this context has been neglected or minimized (Plate, 2015; Ricoeur, 2004; Weinrich, 2004). The paper explores specific sets of performed oblivion on the day of his funeral that attempted to establish (new) relationships with past and present politics. I argue that five million people across the nation participated in the covert silence and active forgetting, which helped them re-access their political sovereignty in the living present with clues for the anticipation of the immediate future (Stiegler, 2010). The erected memory had only loosely related historical relevances, but it was able to invite the other memory that had not been vocally mourned, regardless of their direct relationship with Roh. The topic of emotion and the acknowledgment of the political meaning of present-time through memory will also be discussed.

Collective memory via active dismembering, Sovereignty, Mediation in funeral
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Youngkwan Ban

PhD Candidate, ICR (Institute of Communication Research), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, United States
United States