Taking Liberties with History
256 pp., 6 x 9 in, 14 color illus.
- Published: August 22, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An exploration of historical memory and networks of meaning in the context of today's crises of extremism and polarization.
As authoritarianism continues to rise around the world, the stories we tell ourselves about what has happened and what is happening become ever more relevant. In Memory, Edited, Abby Smith Rumsey examines collective memory, how it binds us, and how it can be used by bad actors to manipulate us. Bringing forward the voices of a rich cast of Eastern European artists from the past two hundred years—from Fyodor Dostoevsky to Gerhard Richter—Rumsey shows how their work and lives illustrate the devastation wrought by regimes dependent on entrenched lies to survive. Not only does this hijacking of the narrative polarize communities, but it also hijacks our future.
Through an interdisciplinary lens that includes the best thinking from history, the arts, cognitive science, psychology, and political philosophy, Rumsey lays bare our narratives, showing how they are constructed and how they have changed over time. Ever-aware of resisting the false promise of utopia, Rumsey argues that only by confronting the past and reckoning with the crimes that were committed can we ever hope to heal and gain self-knowledge. Memory, Edited is an indispensable text for anyone who cares about democracy, equality, and freedom in our current age of crisis.