Law and collective memory

Joachim J. Savelsberg, Ryan D. King

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

78 Scopus citations


Law and collective memory are reciprocally associated. Law steers collective memory, directly but selectively, as trials produce images of the past through the production and presentation of evidence in ritual practices and public discourse. Law affects collective memory indirectly by regulating the production, accessibility, and dissemination of information about the past. Simultaneously, collective memory is preserved and activated by carrier groups to inform lawmaking and law enforcement; and memories of past atrocities serve as analogical devices that, under certain conditions, influence law. Such institutionalization of collective memory as law partly results from applied commemorations, lawmaking situations that invoke the past. The relevance of the reciprocal relationship between law and collective memory is highlighted by the international community's responses to recent atrocities and regime transitions and by its new openness to intervention in national affairs. This article reviews past research and discusses avenues for future work on law and collective memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
EditorsJohn Hagan, Kim Lane Scheppele, Tom Tyler
Number of pages23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
ISSN (Print)1550-3585


  • Atrocities
  • Cultural trauma
  • Human rights
  • International law
  • Transitional justice


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