Research Remembers

Translated by Nina Fink, Aurore Abdoul-Maninroudine
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Apporter des clefs de compréhension aux étudiants, développer l'esprit critique, remplir sa mission sociale... le rôle de l'université, au lendemain des attentats de Paris, est multiple.
"Because it is long-term, broad, transdisciplinary and audiovisual, the project is unique", says Denis Peschanski. // ©  Denis Allard / R.E.A
One year has passed since the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The 13-Novembre project, created to study memory around these attacks, has brought together 150 researchers to interview 1,000 people. EducPros spoke with CNRS Research Director Denis Peschanski to find out more.

Denis Peschanski, directeur du programme 13-NovembreWhat does the project entail?

It is a 12-year-long, transdisciplinary research project that seeks to better understand the relationship between individual and collective memory. It is jointly organized by the CNRS, héSam and Inserm. There are two parts: interviews and a biomedical study called Remember.

Our goal is to interview 1,000 people. Their accounts will be combined with excerpts from the collective memory taken from TV, newspapers and commemoration events. We will repeat the interviews in 2016, 2018, 2021 and 2025. Because it is long-term, broad, transdisciplinary and audiovisual, the project is unique. It's a crazy gamble.

Neuropsychologist Francis Eustache is leading the study, which will analyze post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cerebral resilience markers. Remember will study interviewees who were directly impacted, ranging from survivors and their loved ones to policemen and doctors, as well as a pseudo control group from Caen.

How did it come about?

Like everyone, I was shocked by the attacks. When CNRS Director Alain Fuchs sent a message to the scientific community a week later, I realized that we in the research community had to respond.

I was inspired by the Franco-American research project Memory in Global Context. To understand how memory works in the brain, you have to consider social impact, and vice versa. I worked with William Hirst, the psychology professor who launched a ten-year-long study using 3,000 questionnaires after September 11th. We wanted to take this cohort idea one step further.

I believe these attacks will leave a lasting impression on the collective memory.

Did you interview 1,000 people?

We wanted to interview them before the commemorations so their responses wouldn't be affected. We've interviewed 920 people already thanks to word of mouth. Surprisingly, those who were directly impacted were the most enthusiastic. The interviews were cathartic for them.

Any conclusions thus far?

Survivors' experiences are unique. They differ even when they were in the same place. The attacks caught people off guard. Trauma during periods like World War II is part of a larger, longer story. Since PTSD can take months to develop, the delay can be disconcerting. I believe these attacks will leave a lasting impression on the collective memory.

Read the article (in French)

Translated by Nina Fink, Aurore Abdoul-Maninroudine | Publié le