Nostalgia as in-situ History Creation: A fragment

Occasionally a celebrity will die, or an old commercial tune will come on, or one person will mention a public figure also known to another person of the same generation. These types of scenarios often spark a collective nostalgia performance. And, if there is someone younger about who shows the least bit of curiosity (“who was that?“), or even if they show none, there will most likely be a history telling of this pop-culturally significant nostalgia. “Well, so-and-so was a well-known [insert occupation here] in the late 19[??]s who really [contribution to (pop) culture]…

Most often I experience this around my older relatives, removed by a generation, sometimes only by half a generation, if it’s a cousin who’s significantly older. This is different from sharing different subcultural knowledge. No, this has a historical element. This type of sharing and telling is bolstered by its nostalgia; by its being in the past and no longer being relevant (or present/visible) in the present cultural moment. This is about reliving the pop-culture the experiencer and teller has found important–and that past society has told them is important.

This is pop-culture canonization. Telling about those people and phenomena remembered as significant. Popular culture canonized in peoples’ memories and collected sharings of them as history. As truth about the past. This person I remember that you young’uns don’t was important, and let me tell you why.  (Because I can state some facts about themBecause the media told me they were important once. Because I remember seeing them on TV, hearing that jingle, reading about them in the paper, hearing my parents talk about them…)

What from the now will we each and together decide is worthy of canonization? Worthy of telling about in the future with that glazed-over look of privileged, historically-contingent knowledge. This happens, I suspect, both unconsciously and consciously with the help of media and cultural producers and talking with friends and contemporaries…alone together. When of course everything is mediated, if not in the massive sense of TV and internet, than through other means. But I want to find out: what will we make memorable? Make pop-history? What of the millions of details about popular culture in this very moment will we be able to recall for the younger generations to come?
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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Media, Nostalgia

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