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Education and the Dangerous Memories of Historical Trauma: Narratives of Pain, Narratives of Hope



The purpose of this article is to explore the meanings and implications of dangerous memories in two different sites of past traumatic memories: one in Israel and the other in Cyprus. Dangerous memories are defined as those memories that are disruptive to the status quo, that is, the hegemonic culture of strengthening and perpetuating existing group-based identities. Our effort is to outline some insights from this endeavor—insights that may help educators recognize the potential of dangerous memories to ease pain and offer hope. First, a discussion on memory, history and identity sets the ground for discussing the meaning and significance of dangerous memories in the history curriculum. Next, we narrate two stories from our longitudinal ethnographic studies on trauma and memory in Israel and Cyprus; these stories are interpreted through the lens of dangerous memories and their workings in relation to the hegemonic powers that aim to sustain collective memories. The two different stories suggest that collective memories of historical trauma are not simply “transmitted” in any simple way down the generations—although there are powerful workings that support this transmission. Rather, there seems to be much ambivalence in the workings of memories that under some circumstances may create openings for new identities. The final section discusses the possibilities of developing a pedagogy of dangerous memories by highlighting educational implications that focus on the notion of creating new solidarities without forgetting past traumas. This last section employs dangerous memories as a critical category for pedagogy in the context of our general concern about the implications of memory, history and identity in educational contexts.