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Collective memory and collective fear: how South Africans use the past to explain crime

Teeger, Chana ORCID: 0000-0002-5046-8280 (2014) Collective memory and collective fear: how South Africans use the past to explain crime. Qualitative Sociology, 37 (1). pp. 69-92. ISSN 0162-0436

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11133-013-9267-3


The past is a resource that individuals can draw upon as they try to make sense of the world around them, and scholars have long assumed that individuals internalize and utilize collective memories in their daily lives. Yet capturing and analyzing the deployment of collective memory has proven elusive. This paper offers a novel approach for tapping whether, and how, individuals selectively draw on their collective pasts to explain the present. Analyzing interviews with young South African managers and professionals, this paper demonstrates racial variation in how respondents organically introduce the country’s apartheid past as an explanans for current crime, and suggests how these differences are related to divergent levels of commitment by blacks and whites to the South African nation-building project. In so doing, the paper offers a method for examining how individuals selectively use the past to construct, justify, and explain their present-day attitudes and behaviors. The study further highlights the importance of attending not only to what people remember, but also to how they think through and with collective representations of the past.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 07:47
Last Modified: 21 May 2024 22:12

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