1820) Can Law Save Memory - Rethinking Role Of Legal Measures In Collective Denial, Forgetting And Remembrance

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Marta Szczepanik
PhD Candidate, Graduate School for Social Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw

Can Law Save Memory? Rethinking The Role Of Legal Measures In Collective Denial, Forgetting And Remembrance

This article tries to address the controversy around the progression of legal measures of national and supranational nature that aim to introduce norms of desired social conduct in relation to the past events. For the last two decades we have been observers to an intensified and complicated dialogue between law and memory. This dialogue in several countries resulted in the introduction of measures intended to combat acts of revisionism, including the negation of crimes against humanity, in particular of the Holocaust, laws on the recognition of genocide, guidelines on the interpretation of slavery and colonialism, as well as in the establishment of the days of remembrance. It has provoked a debate on the role that law should play in defining history and in shaping the narrative of collective memory. To whom does the history belong? What is the responsibility of a historian and of a legislator in front of people and communities? Are legal measures that impose what needs to be remembered and in what way justifiable as reflections of values and norms of contemporary societies or rather, by framing the past so that it responds to collective expectations of the present, they dangerously enough become measures of the same order as behaviour they try to address?

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