Collective Memory and Social Change

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Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"



The last few years have marked the fiftieth anniversaries of iconic moments of social movement history, such as the 1968 protests around the world and the Stonewall riots in the United States. Commemorations have taken place throughout the world, and different aspects of the past have been appropriated and reconstructed by contemporary movements. These anniversaries have not only highlighted the continuing importance of these events for society and politics today, but have also shed light on their legacies in present-day movements. In the last few years, the scholarly interest in the intersection between social movements and memory has been growing considerably. This growth is linked to developments within both social movement studies and memory studies. On the one hand, memory studies have become interested increasingly in mnemonic agency, resilience and resistance. On the other hand, social movement scholars’ attention to memories grew against the background of the cultural turn and debates about movements’ temporality and continuity. This seminar will introduce students to the sociological study of memory in a broad sense, with a particular focus on its significance for research on collective action. Materials will draw on the vast field of memory studies, including mainly sociology and cultural studies, focusing on such issues as the conceptualisation of culture, past and heritage; the role of archives and media; mnemonic practices, commemoration and ritualisation; the relationship between memory and collective action. Throughout the course, research material collected by the instructor in his past projects on memory and collective action will be presented and discussed.



The course will have a seminar structure, with weekly discussions on selected readings and the direct relationship with theoretical and empirical research on the issues of memory and collective action. Every session will be introduced by the lecturer (or by a guest lecturer), followed by an open discussion of the readings. Attendees are required to read the material, present the readings in a critical perspective, and actively participate in the following discussion. References to the attendees’ own research projects are encouraged.



PhD students will be evaluated based on their active participation in class, and the instructor will determine whether they have passed or failed the course. PhD students who opt to write a term paper for this course should consult the instructor in advance and agree on a topic.

Master students will be evaluated based on their active participation in class (50%) and on a final paper of 2000-3000 words on one of the topics covered during the course (50%). The instructor is available for consultation on the topic of the paper and for advice on its structure and content. The final grade will be expressed on a 30-point scale. The paper can be written in English or Italian and must be delivered by June 30th, 2022.


1.Studying collective memory: an introduction

Tuesday, April 5th 10-12 – Altana room

The first session will introduce the main concepts and traditions in the study of collective memory.


Assmann, J. (2008) Communicative and Cultural Memory. In: Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 109–118.

Benjamin, W. (1969) Theses on the Philosophy of History. In: Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books, pp. 253-264.

Bloch, M. (1925) Memoire collective, tradition et coutume: A propos d'un livie recent. Revue de Synthese Historique 40, pp. 73-83

Halbwachs, M. (1980). The collective memory. New York: Harper & Row Colophon Books, pp. 50-87.

Olick, J.K. (1999) Collective Memory: The Two Cultures. Sociological Theory 17(3), pp. 333–48.

Olick, J.K., Vinitzky-Seroussi, V. and Levy, D. (2011) Introduction. In: Olick, J.K., Vinitzky-Seroussi, V. and Levy, D. (eds.) The Collective Memory Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3- 62.


 2. Studying collective memory: issues and challenges

Tuesday, April 13th 10-13 – Simone del Pollaiolo room

The second session will continue the theoretical introduction, dealing more in particular with the sociological study of memory and its significance for the study of collective action.


Daphi, P., and Zamponi, L. (2019) Exploring the Movement-Memory Nexus: Insights and Ways Forward. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 24(4), pp. 399–417.

Hobsbawm, E. (1983) Introduction: Inventing Tradition. In. Hobsbawm, E. and Ranger, T. (eds.) The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-14.

Olick, J.K. and Robbins, J. (1998) Social Memory Studies: From “Collective Memory” to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices. Annual Review of Sociology, pp. 105–40.

Schwartz, B. (1996). Memory as a cultural system: Abraham Lincoln in World War II. American Sociological Review 61(5), pp. 908–927.

Zerubavel, E. (1996) Social Memories: Steps to a Sociology of the Past. Qualitative Sociology 19(3), pp. 283–299.



3. Struggles for memory: power, politics, contestation

Wednesday, April 20th 10-13 – Simone del Pollaiolo room

The third session will focus on the politically charged elements of mnemonic processes, drawing both on memory study and on cultural and political sociology.


Alexander, J. (2004) Toward a Cultural Theory of Trauma. In: Alexander, J., Eyerman, R., Giesen, B. Smelser, N.J. and Giesen, B. (eds.) Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Eyerman, R. (2004) The Past in the Present: Culture and the Transmission of Memory. Acta Sociologica 47(2), pp. 159-169.

Kansteiner, W. (2002) Finding Meaning in Memory: A Methodological Critique of Collective Memory Studies. History and Theory 41(2), pp. 179–197.

Schudson, M. (1995) Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory. In: Scachter, D. (ed.) Memory distortion: How minds, brains, and societies reconstruct the past, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 346–364.

Spillman, L. (1998) When Do Collective Memories Last?: Founding Moments in the United States and Australia. Social Science History 22(04), pp. 445–77.



4. Mediated memories

Thursday, April 21st 14-17 - Strozzi room

The fourth session will address the mediation of memory, including archives, mass media, popular culture and public commemoration.


Assmann, A. (2008) Canon and Archive. In: Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 97-107.

Connerton, P. (1989) How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 3.

Hoskins, A. (2017) Memory of the Multitude: The End of Collective Memory. In: Hoskins, A. (ed.) Digital Memory Studies: Media Pasts in Transition. London: Routledge, pp. 97–121.

Peri, Y. (1999) The Media and Collective Memory of Yitzhak Rabin’s Remembrance. Journal of Communication 49(3), pp. 106–24.

Rigney, A. (2016) Cultural memory studies. Mediation, narrative, and the aesthetic. In: Tota, A.L. and Hagen, T. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Memory Studies. New York: Routledge, pp. 65-76.

Zamponi, L. (2020) #ioricordo, beyond the Genoa G8: social practices of memory work and the digital remembrance of contentious pasts in Italy. In: Merrill, S., Daphi, P. e Keightley, E. (eds.) Social Movements, Cultural Memory and Digital Media. Mobilising Mediated Remembrance. London: Palgrave, pp.141-172.

Zelizer, B. (2008) Why Memory’s Work on Journalism Does Not Reflect Journalism’s Work on Memory. Memory Studies 1(1), pp. 79–87.



5. Memories of movements

Tuesday, April 26th 10-13 - Simone del Pollaiolo room

With the fifth session we will start directing our attention towards movements, focusing in particular on how past movements are remembered in society.


Armstrong, E.A. and Crage, S.M. (2006) Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth. American Sociological Review 71(5), pp. 724–751.

Eyerman, R. (2016) Social Movements and Memory. In: Tota, A.L. and Hagen, T. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Memory Studies. New York: Routledge, pp. 79–83.

Meyer, D. (2006) Claiming Credit: Stories of Movement Influence as Outcomes. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 11(3), pp. 281-298.

Polletta, F. (1998). Legacies and Liabilities of an Insurgent Past: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., on the House and Senate Floor. Social Science History, 22(4), pp. 479-512.

Rigney, A. (2016) Differential Memorability and Transnational Activism: Bloody Sunday, 1887-2016. Australian Humanities Review 59(April), pp. 77-95.

Zamponi, L. (2018) Social Movements, Memory and Media. Narrative in Action in the Italian and Spanish Student Movements. London: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 7

6. Movements about memory

Monday, May 9th 14-17 – Altana room

The sixth session will analyse movements that centre on shaping memory of a particular event, exploring how they mobilize around the reinterpretation of the past and how they participate in the construction of public memory about past contention and other historical events.


Bisht, P. (2018) Social movements and the scaling of memory and justice in Bhopal. Contemporary South Asia, 26(1), pp. 18-33.

Iturriaga, N. (2019) The Evolution of the Grandmothers of Plaza De Mayo's Mnemonic Framing. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 24(4), pp. 475–492.

Whitlinger, C. (2019) The Transformative Capacity of Commemoration: Comparing Mnemonic Activism in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 24(4), pp. 455–474.

Merrill, S. and Lindgren, S. (2018) The Rhythms of Social Movement Memories: The Mobilization of Silvio Meier’s Activist Remembrance across Platforms. Social Movement Studies 19(5-6), pp. 657-674.


7. Memory in movements

Wednesday, May 18th 10-13 – Altana room

In our final session we will discuss how memories of various pasts affect how movements mobilize, shaping for example recruiting processes, identity building or strategic decisions.


Farthing, L. and Kohl, B. (2013) Mobilizing Memory: Bolivia’s Enduring Social Movements. Social Movement Studies 12(4), pp. 361–76.

Harris, F. C. (2006) It Takes a Tragedy to Arouse Them: Collective Memory and Collective Action during the Civil Rights Movement. Social Movement Studies 5(1), pp. 19–43.

Jansen, R. S. (2007) Resurrection and Appropriation: Reputational Trajectories, Memory Work, and the Political Use of Historical Figures. American Journal of Sociology 112(4), pp. 953–1007.

Zamponi, L. (2018) Social Movements, Memory and Media. Narrative in Action in the Italian and Spanish Student Movements. London: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 8





This syllabus may be subjected to changes until the beginning of the course. This version was uploaded on October March 2nd, 2022.

Educational aims

By the end of the seminar, students will have developed an introductory but comprehensive critical understanding of the field of memory studies, with a particular focus on the relationship between memory and collective action.