Veiled apologetics and insurgent nostalgia: Sociogenesis of contested memories of the Marcos dictatorship

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Across many nascent democracies, living historical memories of past conflicts are vulnerable to contestation. Past scholarship explains such mnemonic dissonances as the outcome of either broad cultural scripts or top-down political maneuvering. Building on these insights, we utilize the concept of sociogenesis to show how contested memories are semiotically mediated within institutional and informal spaces. Across two studies, we employ mixed methods designs to examine social representations of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, using (a) nationally endorsed history textbooks (N = 86 pages), and (b) online comments (N = 9605) on public YouTube videos (N = 978). We find that textbooks construct the dictatorship in terms of veiled apologetics, leveraging representational strategies of balanced reportage to commensurate the dictatorship’s legacies of abuse against contributions to economic and infrastructure programs. Meanwhile, social media messages represent the regime in terms of insurgent nostalgia, which yearns for a mythologized past under the strongman Marcos in rejection of an elite-coded democratic present. We discuss implications of our findings for broader social psychological discussions of living historical memories in the context of structural fragility, linking to related debates on critical history education, digital democracy, and the resurgence of authoritarianism locally and worldwide.