Conflicting Narratives about the Argentinean ‘Conquest of the Desert’: Social Representations, Cognitive Polyphasia, and Nothingness

To understand how individuals acquire knowledge about their group’s past, this chapter discusses contributions by Social Representations Theory. The authors argue that appropriating Social Representations about history constitutes common sense history learning and that remembering follows a particular group’s perspective to sustain a positive identity. They analyze how power conflicts between social groups intervene in configuring versions of the past that can legitimize or question positions of the social group in the present. The remembering of the controversial Argentine ‘Conquest of the Desert’ illustrates this. The coexistence of and the struggle between different representations of a same historical process is argued to constitute ‘cognitive polyphasia,’ but given social asymmetries some might prevail while other possible representations become ‘nothingness.’ Possibilities to educationally intervene and raise awareness about hegemonic narratives of the past are discussed.