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Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past

Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past [Kindle Edition]

Eviatar Zerubavel

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"The quest for a universal framework for the study of social time is certainly audacious. . . . Zerubavel's preliminary exploration confirms the daunting challenges to such a venture, but he also draws attention to the many benefits that will accrue to a sociology that, at long last, takes seriously the centrality of time in social life."--Joseph M. Bryant "Contemporary Sociology "

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"Time Maps extends beyond all of the old clichés about linear, circular, and spiral patterns of historical process and provides us with models of the actual legends used to map history. It is a brilliant and elegant exercise in model building that provides new insights into some of the old questions about philosophy of history, historical narrative, and what is called straight history."-Hayden White, University of California, Santa Cruz

Who were the first people to inhabit North America? Does the West Bank belong to the Arabs or the Jews? Why are racists so obsessed with origins? Is a seventh cousin still a cousin? Why do some societies name their children after dead ancestors?

As Eviatar Zerubavel demonstrates in Time Maps, we cannot answer burning questions such as these without a deeper understanding of how we envision the past. In a pioneering attempt to map the structure of our collective memory, Zerubavel considers the cognitive patterns we use to organize the past in our minds and the mental strategies that help us string together unrelated events into coherent and meaningful narratives, as well as the social grammar of battles over conflicting interpretations of history. Drawing on fascinating examples that range from Hiroshima to the Holocaust, from Columbus to Lucy, and from ancient Egypt to the former Yugoslavia, Zerubavel shows how we construct historical origins; how we tie discontinuous events together into stories; how we link families and entire nations through genealogies; and how we separate distinct historical periods from one another through watersheds, such as the invention of fire or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Most people think the Roman Empire ended in 476, even though it lasted another 977 years in Byzantium. Challenging such conventional wisdom, Time Maps will be must reading for anyone interested in how the history of our world takes shape.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1377 KB
  • Print Length: 194 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0226981533
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (12 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D4M89DG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #314,143 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Models of Social Time 7 Jun 2013
By L. King - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
An important aspect of self identity is how we place ourselves and our culture wrt other times. Do we see ourselves in terms of a linearly manifest destiny, either a rise to a golden age, a fall to inevitable chaos or a zig zag path of ups and downs? Does history consist of repeating cycles, grander analogies to the week or the year? Or, as the book suggests, do we adopt George Cuvier's multilinear historical narrative - evolution is not a series of straight lines (which may be a personal perspective) but an expanding bush?

It's a short but rather appealing book. The author is well versed in his subject and offers a large number of provocative ideas with first class examples. One of the must intriguing notions is that of a relief map of the world where physical elevation is replaced by historical import and the frequency/intensity of available reporting. Thus the 8th, 10th, 12th and 14th centuries would be virtually flat as as there is (he argues) little in the record, but the two World Wars would create a mountain range across Europe into Russia, North Africa and the Far East. Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Israel would form an archipelago, with active volcanoes in China and India. Though suggested as an thought experiment, IMV it would be both feasible and fascinating as an online tool for visualizing history, an updated version of Timeline of World History, and could be used to focus either on particular eras or points of view, ie: history in relation to the French or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Another important idea is how societies bridge themselves as a continuation of things past. Zerubavel looked at over 190 countries and found that most had some pattern of holidays that ritually synchronize the calendar year with a sequence of historic events. Memorabilia either real or reproduced also functions as tools for connectedness, as does ancestry, either by blood relation, culture or ideology. He also notes the social significance of how we break up events or lump them together. The Nazis looked on WW II as a continuation of WW I which never ended and the Shah of Iran portrayed himself as a successor to Cyrus some 2600 years ago, even though his own "dynasty" only extended back to his father.

Lots of good references at the end for related reading, including May & Neustadt's Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers. Recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read 8 Oct 2012
By Nicholas Sullivan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must read for anyone who cares about why groups think or act the way they do. This book is less about explaining the mechanics behind it and more about explaining, through a large amount of examples, exactly what happens when memories are created and how narratives are started because Truth is relative.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short on Time 30 July 2012
By Louis J. Profeta - Published on
Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the PastTime, what could one say we're all enriched by each minute of time our children grow in time. Is it important, yes with faith it guides every waking day, in seconds, when we realize each important second is called, NOW!We all live in the confines of time, also the whole community does that is where this book becomes really interesting, so enjoy you time with this unusual read.
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