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Tragic SpiritsShamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia$
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Manduhai Buyandelger

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226086552

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226013091.001.0001

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Technologies of Forgetting, State Socialism, and Potential Memories

Technologies of Forgetting, State Socialism, and Potential Memories

(p.67) Two Technologies of Forgetting, State Socialism, and Potential Memories
Tragic Spirits

Manduhai Buyandelger

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 discusses state-enforced forgetting during socialism and its persistence after socialism’s collapse. Repeated cycles of purging and rehabilitation blurred the boundaries between victims and perpetrators, discredited individual memories, and allowed the state to be perceived as less violent. More indirect technologies of forgetting, which are enmeshed with other forms of power, include the routinization of state-sanctioned narratives, undermining the framework of collective remembering, erasing the contexts for remembering, the manipulation of emotions, and silencing. The author argues that in addition to the forced altering of the content of memories, the state impaired confidence in memory and led to self-imposed forgetting. She uses Benjamin’s emphasis on the separation between progress and history to illuminate the estrangement of people from their past, which takes the form of forgotten or unknown origin spirits. After the collapse of socialism, state agency has been embodied by individual citizens who impose the silencing of the past on their fellow citizens. Further, there is an eerie link between the shamanic and the state: the forgotten and identity-less souls of the dead echo the unidentified bodies in hidden mass burials, and both are repercussions of state violence and forgetting.

Keywords:   memory, state violence, forgetting, mass burials, rehabilitation, power, silence, propaganda, Walter Benjamin, purges

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