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Heteroglossia, “common sense,” and social memory



In this article I analyze internally contradictory narratives articulated by former settlers of Algeria. By adopting a discourse-centered approach to these stories of colonial assimilation, I show that what are often described as “commonsense” forms in popular memory can be viewed as examples of Bakhtinian heteroglossia. Passages from taped conversations illustrate multiple voices in dynamic interaction. Research in cognitive anthropology and psychology suggests that it is not unusual for individuals to retain multiple and conflicting viewpoints simultaneously. Narratives about the past may be especially multivocal, for reasons I discuss here. I reflect on implications of these insights for anthropological models of social memory.

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