Misremembering 9/11: The Cultural use of Nostalgia in national Memory

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature


Madhu Mitra, English


Restorative nostalgia, which attempt to recreate a monolithic past, detrimentally affects society because it presents itself as truth. Conversely, reflective nostalgia, self-conscious as nostalgia, focuses instead on our longing for the past and the fragmented, unreliable nature of our memory (Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia). Following the US Civil War, nostalgic longings for an idealized South coupled with the creation of whiteness and a collective misremembering of the US Civil War period laid the foundations for problems afflicting society today: discrimination and pernicious white racism. I analyzed post-9/11 presidential rhetoric, country music, and media coverage in a search to highlight trends in the ways our understanding and memory of 9/11 and the pre-9/11 world are being shaped and molded to fit one particular view of history, searching for parallels and lessons from the US Civil War. I found that the post-9/11 rhetorical response misremembers the pre-9/11 world using restorative nostalgia and posits one official understanding—lacking complexity, nuance, or reflection—of 9/11 and its implications. By more accurately and critically understanding 9/11 using reflective nostalgia, we as individuals and a society can help direct present decisions and future courses of action towards more positive, appropriate ends.