Spectacular memory: Zombie pasts in the themed shopping malls of Dubai

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Memory invariably involves sifting and sorting historical traces and reassembling them into societal representations of the past. Usually this has been done by social groups of different kinds or the cultural institutions associated with them, and has provided materials for the construction and maintenance of group identity. In what I term “spectacular memory,” however, the sifting and sorting of memory traces is performed by commercial and media institutions within a globalized cultural framework to create spectacles for mass consumption. Spectacular memory is enabled by the progressive breakdown of Halbwach’s “social frameworks of memory”—the association of memory with face-to-face relations within social groups. In late modern societies, “memory” as a coherent body of representations which is the property of more-or-less bounded social groups has largely devolved into a globalized store of representations curated and diffused through the media, advertising, tourism and entertainment industries. This article uses the example of the history-themed shopping malls of Dubai to characterize this form of memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-226
Number of pages15
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Dubai
  • cultural memory
  • deterritorialization of memory
  • mediatized memory
  • public memory
  • simulated memory
  • themed shopping malls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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