The Implications of Remembering

In an interview with Patricia Saunders, author M. NourbeSe Philip says: “What if the Ancestors intended some other purpose for us to have been brought to this part of the world, entirely different from the European lust for profit. It seems to me that just asking that question puts us in a different position and releases a tremendous amount of energy. In honoring our own dead… by focusing on ourselves and what the experience of slavery has meant and can’t mean, even just embracing all that, somehow helps to contain the experience so that we can benefit from the memory rather than being crushed by it” (Small Axe 26, June 2008, pp. 63-79).

In the introduction to this issue of the journal, David Scott writes about what is “sedimented into the [black] body” (p. xvi), referring to Paul Connerton’s habit-memory in which the past is – to quote from Toni Morrison – (a) “rememory” (Beloved 1987, p. 47), that is re-experienced and seen as if it is present.

Since reading this edition of the journal, I have thought often of the implications of “just embracing all that”, all that the body remembers about being Black in the world. Of course, this has only produced more questions. These include:

How would Black communities create spaces in which this process could be safely engaged beyond performance of historical events? What kind of healing is possible when we allow what the body re-members to emerge? Would we have to create new healing modalities to understand and accommodate the range of Black experiences connected to slavery? Would the concept of “collective memories” be helpful or hindering? Or would we need a way to organize types of memories? What is it necessary for us to forget in order for some memories to exist?

Of course, there are always these questions: what constitutes a memory? A rememory? A sediment?

Works Cited
Connerton, Paul. (1989). How societies remember. England: Cambridge University Press.
Morrison, Toni. (1987). Beloved. New York: Knopf.
Small Axe 26, June 2008.