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The Impact of Memory Work within the Colombian Education Community: An Exploration in Historical Consciousness

This study investigates the relation between memory work and its social outcome through a diagnosis of historical consciousness within the Colombian education community. To do this, we analyze several media through which different interpretations of the past are transmitted and offers to the development of historical consciousness are made.

In the context of the peace process, the Colombian government repeatedly recognized its duty of remembrance, and with the National Center for Historical Memory (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, CNMH) it even created the institution to settle this obligation. Although the center has published more than 80 reports over the last years and there has been a significant increase in academic work in this field, very little social impact of the center’s work can be seen.

The proposed study addresses this gap between institutional and academic efforts on one side and the actual collective and individually constructed memories on the other side, in order to better understand the social dynamics that lead to the constitution of a memory culture. To do this, the investigators of this project use the concept of historical consciousness as their central research category. As a central learning goal of history teaching, historical consciousness has been used to describe and evaluate individual and social attitudes towards the past after significant political changes.

The proposed study focusses on a group that occupies a strategic place within the negotiations of the past: the school and its related community. School and its education community play a key role in this process, because it is here where policies of memory and history are practically implemented and where institutionalized memories meet and compete with alternative constructions of the past. On these grounds, this study investigates institutionalized as well as informal channels of history learning, taking into account two media in particular: history schoolbooks and television series. While schoolbooks transmit mostly institutionalized interpretations of the past, television series also show alternative, non-hegemonic versions. Both media rely on existing social interpretative patterns, but at the same time, they make an offer for the development of these interpretations.
In order to investigate the relation between memory work and its social outcome, we apply questionnaires and conduct interviews with students, teachers and families coming from different regions and from different social contexts. Our expected findings contribute towards a better understanding of the underlying social dynamics and channels through which memory is formed.

This research project is developed in collaboration with the Departamento de Lenguas y Cultura of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Universitad de los Andes, Bogotá. It is funded under the program "COLUMBIA UNIANDES 2018 - Joint Research Grants" by the German Research Foundation and the Vicerrectoría de Investigaciones of Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá) for a period of three years (2019 – 2021).