Histcon.se Time, Memory and Representation Tid, Minne, Representation

A Multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness

Ett mångdisciplinärt forskningsprogram om historiemedvetandets förvandlingar

Staffan Ericson

Associate Professor, Media and Communications, Södertörn University


B. 1956. Docent, Associate Professor, Media and Communications, Södertörn University. PhD from Stockholm University in 2004, with the dissertation Två drömspel. Från Strindbergs modernism till Potters television, that engages with historical implications of Walter Benjamin’s and Raymond Williams’s cultural theories. Has edited several books on television and currently leads the research project ”Media Houses” (Baltic Sea Foundation), which has resulted in the anthology Media Houses: Architecture, Media, and the Production of Centrality (Peter Lang 2010).

Ongoing research

Ericson will contribute a study on television and contemporary historical awareness. During the last decade, Western television has become increasingly occupied with the representation of history (Bell 2007), as indicated by large-scale documentaries and serials, specialized history-channels, new technologies for accessing archival material. The medium’s influence on collective memory is by now well recognized (Volkmer 2006). This development raises urgent questions: how does television represent the past? How may these representations be distinguished from traditional historiography, or the narratives of film and literature? Such questions pose a challenge for media studies, where television mainly has represented an ahistorical temporality, producing “forgetfulness, not memory, flow, not history” (Heath, 1990). This study will explore different ways in which television may portray what happened (”history on television”), as well as different temporalities in its mode of presentation (“television as historian”). Specifically, it will portray three temporal forms: the time of the chronicle, where television organizes flows of historical time through documentaries, fictional series, yearly chronicles, etc; the time of catastrophe, as breaks in this flow, through live broadcasts of events where history is represented as catastrophe, crisis, disaster (cf. Doane 1990); the time of ritual, as in televised ceremonial events, Olympic games, elections, installations, etc, (cf Dayan & Katz 1992). These forms will be analyzed through contemporary examples (cold war history, 9/11, presidential elections). The hypothesis is that their interrelations are fundamental for understanding how television represents historical consciousness.

Selected bibliography

Två drömspel. Från Strindbergs modernism till Potters television (Stockholm: Symposion, 2004)

– Hello Europe! Tallinn Calling! Eurovision Song Contest 2002 som mediehändelse, (Mediestudier vid Södertörns högskola 2002:3, Huddinge: MKV).

– eds. with Espen Ytreberg, Fjernsyn mellom høy og lav kultur (Oslo: Høyskoleforlaget, 2002)

– ”Death at Broadcasting House”. In Jansson, André & Amanda Lagerkvist: Strange Spaces. (London: Ashgate Publishing, 2009, forthcoming)

– eds. with Kristina Riegert, Media Houses. Architecture, Media, and the Production of Centrality (New York: Peter Lang, 2009, forthcoming).

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