HS/PO 420 - Fractured Landscapes of European Memory

Collective memories unite and divide - families, social groups and even nation states. For states and other political actors, collective memories, including publicly shared historical narratives, constitute an important basis for securing their legitimacy. This is especially the case in times of progressive decline of modernist ideologies. But does this work for supranational entities like the EU as well?

This seminar focuses on developments, ruptures, and differences of European collective memories as one constitutive element of a theory of postmodern European societies. The decline of utopian visions redirected European societies to collective pasts serving as a storehouse of inspiration for repressed identities so that French historian Pierre Nora describes the entire period as an “age of commemoration”. This seminar will attempt to systematically embed the study of the changing landscapes of European memory into a narrative that includes the transformation of broader epochal conditions. The course is divided into four parts. Part I will introduce central concepts and approaches in the field of collective memory studies and differentiate between social, political and cultural forms of collective memory. The increasingly important role of new media technologies like, for instance, television and the Internet, will also be analyzed. Part II focuses on memories of (civil) war and violence in selected European countries. Part III traces the development of the memory of the Holocaust from its initial marginalization to its progressive inclusion as a constitutive element of German national identity. Part IV will highlight the effects of decolonization and the post-communist “recovery” of memory in Eastern Europe on the wider landscape of European memory.

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Political Science

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