Family Memory, a Sociology of Intimacy



Anne Muxel


Family memory is made up of scattered and disparate fragments that are dependent on the vagaries of reminiscence and that are wrought by the interplay of remembering and forgetting. This memory is fleeting, it surprises and invades the person who is remembering in blasts, in stops and starts. It reverberates in the secret inner being of everyone.

But what is family memory?

Family memory is firstly a history, the way in which an individual mobilizes his past and gives it meaning, more or less consciously. Family memory is the result of the work of re-appropriation and negotiation that all individuals carry out with respect to this history that founds their identity.

Family memory is also an antechamber of otherness. In it is constructed the relationship between individuals and their own history, and therefore between them and the others in this history. In it are written the continuities and the breaks in the history of families, in family ties, in the forms of handing down, and in the contents of what is handed down.

But family memory is also and above all a presence inside us which recalls itself to us on the basis of images, impressions, and sensations. When it opens up its doors, it lets out, as if by magic, a burst of odors, sounds, an anecdote, a familiar joke, an object, a photo, the voices of familiar characters, the memory of their bodies, of their gestures, like an image of a childhood place, a recipe, etc., all of these evocations working as cues to bring the past back into the present.



Anne Muxel
Selection on the theme of memory

"Les lieux dans la mémoire familiale : conquête poétique de l’espace," in B.Bawin-Legros, R.Radurand, K.Kellerhals, Singly (eds), Les espaces de la famille, Les cahiers de sociologie de la famille, N°1, Liège, 1995, pp .229-236.
"Être frère et sœur, le rester," Informations sociales, N°67, 1998.
"Les fêtes de famille ou les étincelles du désir," in A.Eiguer, C.Leprince, F.Baruch (eds), La fête de famille, In Press Editions, Paris, 1997.
"La mémoire de la maison," Le divan familial, In Press, 3/Automne 1999.
Individu et mémoire familiale, Nathan, Paris, 1996.



Anne Muxel
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CNRS - Centre de la vie politique française (CEVIPOF)
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