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Specters of Tyranny

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When referring to preserving the Holocaust in history, the late Elie Wiesel once asked the famous question, “How does one remember?” Expanding on Wiesel’s question, how does an individual, a group, or a society as a whole, remember authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships? What role does memory play in shaping contemporary historical discourse? How is this historical memory transmitted from one generation to the next? How can words, images, or historical facts express authoritarianism or totalitarianism? Can literary representations and film make a difference in the way societies come to terms with tyrannical regimes? How does historical cultural socialization influence collective consciousness? Is it possible for forms of historical cultural socialization to help prevent totalitarian regimes from coming into existence in the present and future? What does it even mean to ask such fundamental questions about dictatorships when democracies engage them, provide support for, or ignore human rights abuses?

The essays included in this book were presented at the Memory, Collective Consciousness, & Authoritarian Dictatorships International Conference, hosted by the Regimes Museum of Orange County, CA, on September 19, 2020. The purpose of this collection is to help find answers to some of these fundamental questions. More specifically, the aim is to analyze, explore, and understand how individuals and societies internalize, come to terms with, and preserve the memories of totalitarianism in the twentieth century from an interdisciplinary approach. By combining the expertise and knowledge of professional researchers and graduate students across multiple disciplines, it is our hope to shed new light on how individuals and societies choose to remember dictatorship in their countries and how neighboring societies have interacted with authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships.

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