Challenging the meaning of the past from below: A typology for comparative research on memory activists

Yifat Gutman, Jenny Wüstenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Memory activists have recently received more scholarly and public attention, but the concept lacks conceptual clarity. In this article, we articulate an analytical framework for studying memory activists, proposing a relatively narrow definition: “Memory activists” strategically commemorate the past to challenge (or protect) dominant views on the past and the institutions that represent them. Their goal is mnemonic change or to resist change. We locate scholarship on memory activists at the intersection of memory studies and social movement studies. We introduce a typology for comparative analysis of memory activism according to activist roles, temporality, and modes of interaction with other actors in memory politics, and illustrate this with a diverse set of empirical examples. We contend that the analytical utility of the concept of the “memory activist” is premised on its value-neutrality, and in particular, its application to both pro and anti-democratic cases of activism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1070-1086
Number of pages17
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • democracy
  • memory politics
  • mobilization
  • movements
  • populist
  • progressive

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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