Oh, man. If Pierre Nora was getting all hot and bothered over too much documentation in 1989, he wouldn’t even be able to survive today. He’d see the outline of the Twitter logo and spontaneously combust. It’s funny I think, and refreshing to remember that everyone catastrophizes their present situation – even historians professing to call for a more circumspect recording of history apart from mere memory. It’s ironic that Nora should find his reality so exceptional in the scope of history (or remembrance as the case may be). Everyone’s history is the most important one when they’re living it.
While the whole essay was thought-provoking in some way or other, I was drawn most to the idea of our anxiety over our own changing identity and subsequent compulsion to document everything. Like if we cannot capture the moment, it never happened. The substitution of documentation for lived experience is an interesting phenomenon, something I ponder every time I draft a resume or cover letter. Perhaps the schism Nora describes between recorded history and personal memory is the root of Imposter Syndrome – or mine at least. Our (or is it just me?) memory of doing busywork for days on end outweighs the programs we coordinated, the exhibits we curated, the initiatives we started, the grants we got. When it’s all on a resume it feels foreign, like a lie, because the intermittent accomplishments seem so much grander than the boring, unimpressive, day-to-day activities. But they happened, they were documented, we did them. Thank god we don’t have to log our hours of staring off into space waiting for it to be lunch time on a resume, amiright?