A sanctuary built on conflict

Searching for conflicts in retrospective Facebook groups


  • Robin Ekelund




Digital memory, Connective memory, Digital heritage, Nostalgia, Disputes, Authority, social media, Facebook


This article investigates conflicts in retrospective Facebook groups, i.e., groups created with a particular interest and focus on the past, to analyse how members of these groups understand the past and how they negotiate, resist and challenge each other’s notions of the past. The data comes from a netnographic fieldwork within six such retrospective groups. Theoretical inspiration is drawn from Actor-Network-Theory (Harrison 2013, Latour 2005). The analysis thusly focuses on human (the members of the groups) as well as non-human actors (the operative logic of Facebook) and study how these produce associations between the past and the present. An overall result of the study is that the retrospective Facebook groups are not characterised by conflict. Instead, they are produced as places of sanctuary, where associations with the past becomes a basis for a nostalgic feel-good culture. However, the analysis also shows that the sanctuaries build on the production of a discontinuity and a conflict between the past and the present. Using Boym’s concept of ruinophilia, as well as Bauman’s concept of retrotopia, the article discusses how the conflicted discontinuity between the past and the present produces an us-and-them relationship where group members can come together in a nostalgic as well as a critical care for the world as it (in their perspectives) was supposed to be. The analysis also illustrates how members’ use of sources and references becomes a mere stylistic performance of authority, as the operative logic of Facebook not only enables but also constrains group interactions, reducing the members’ possibilities of having profound interactions and negotiations based on their memories and notions of the past. The article hereby contributes to the emerging research on digital memories in general, and memory work on Facebook in particular.


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Digital Heritage In Cultural Conflicts