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Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe

Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe

Eric Langenbacher
Bill Niven
Ruth Wittlinger
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe
    Book Description:

    The collapse of the Iron Curtain, the renationalization of eastern Europe, and the simultaneous eastward expansion of the European Union have all impacted the way the past is remembered in today's eastern Europe. At the same time, in recent years, the Europeanization of Holocaust memory and a growing sense of the need to stage a more "self-critical" memory has significantly changed the way in which western Europe commemorates and memorializes the past. The increasing dissatisfaction among scholars with the blanket, undifferentiated use of the term "collective memory" is evolving in new directions. This volume brings the tension into focus while addressing the state of memory theory itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-581-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe
    (pp. 1-13)
    Eric Langenbacher, Bill Niven and Ruth Wittlinger

    In many ways, “Europe” has been an unqualified success story since 1945. The postwar period witnessed an unprecedented level of economic and political integration accompanied by a relatively long period of peace and stability. The European project has not only ensured Western European reconstruction and cooperation in the aftermath of World War II but—through a number of waves of enlargement—it has also overcome the continent’s division in the aftermath of the fall of communism. The Europeanization of national polities, economies, and societies is quite far advanced, and the world’s largest internal market—in spite of some serious challenges...

  4. Chapter 1 Dynamics of Generational Memory: Understanding the East and West Divide
    (pp. 14-38)
    Harald Wydra

    States have always constructed civic identity by means of unremitting defenses against the memory of their violent origins. If “blessed acts of oblivion” are crucial to ensure collective identities, the political transformations of the last two decades arguably present Europe with a challenge. Across a complex array of repressed memories, denial, victim syndromes, and atonement, Western European societies, such as Germany and France, have come to adhere to the “foundational” memory of the end of Nazism and the singularity of theShoah.¹ Genocide recognition, official apologies, and the rehabilitation of victims are all arguably a central feature for the reconstitution...

  5. Chapter 2 Time-out for National Heroes? Gender as an Analytical Category in the Study of Memory Cultures
    (pp. 39-54)
    Helle Bjerg and Claudia Lenz

    In these two contradictory statements of young Norwegian men, grandmothers are valued as transmitters of memories, providing understanding and/or knowledge of the history of World War II. In one case, the grandmother is completely devalued as a bearer of relevantknowledge;in the other case she is highly valued for herattitudesand her wisdom. Both positions are closely related to gendered scripts, according to the intergenerational transmission of memories. The aim of this chapter is to introduce gender as an analytical category into the study of historical consciousness,¹ memory culture, and history politics,² as we shall suggest an analytical...

  6. Chapter 3 The Memory-Market Dictum: Gauging the Inherent Bias in Different Data Sources Common in Collective Memory Studies
    (pp. 55-68)
    Mark A. Wolfgram

    “Building the new Europe” has been a buzzword for many decades and—like the construction of national political systems before it—necessarily entails the creation of numerous new narratives and symbols, all buttressed by emotive collective memories and disseminated through dominant media and technologies. Scholars working in the field of culture, symbols, identity, and memory often assume the a priori importance of their subject matter, but there is still extensive skepticism—beyond this intellectual community—that any of this matters or, if such importance is recognized, that methods and data necessary to substantiate the hypothesized impact exist. Studying culture and...

  7. Chapter 4 Remembering World War II in Europe: Structures of Remembrance
    (pp. 69-87)
    Christian Gudehus

    Every time Europe or European remembrance is spoken about, the underlying assumption seems to be that there is something like Europe, that European countries somehow belong together, and that references to the past, at least in their manifestation as history, are somehow significant, if not of central importance, to create a so-called European identity.¹ This approach is quite normative, since it affirms Europe as a sphere which is re-created time and again in mostly communicative acts pertaining to economic, cultural, legal, geographical, and political issues. Hence, any such affirmative speech about European remembrance is an integral part of its very...

  8. Chapter 5 Ach(tung) Europa: German Writers and the Establishment of a Cultural Memory of Europe
    (pp. 88-101)
    Hans-Joachim Hahn

    The notion of a cultural memory evolved out of the broader concept of a collective memory that was initially conceived by Maurice Halbwachs,¹ during the interwar period. Halbwachs distinguishes between historical memory, based on clearly identifiable sources and established facts, and a collective memory, which belongs to a group and is associated with commonly perceived experience and shared values. It also differs from the Freudian idea of the unconscious and from strictly individual thought processes.

    Whereas Halbwachs developed his concept as a disciple of Emile Durkheim, this chapter will approach the subject matter from a more epistemological approach, making use...

  9. Chapter 6 Critiquing the Stranger, Inventing Europe: Integration and the Fascist Legacy
    (pp. 102-119)
    Mark Wagstaff

    The European Union’s integration of member states entails, in part, fostering a pan-national, social identity for its disparate citizens. This attempt at identity creation presupposes the existence of a shared sense of “being European.” This chapter suggests that attempts to fashion a European social identity reflect the imperatives of nineteenth-century nation-building, while simultaneously attempting to supplant those imperatives through encouragement of new supranational identities and forms.

    Substantively, I argue that identities are products of memory and that the substitution of external identities actively damages the techniques of memory that shape individual identity as part of the formation of national cohesion....

  10. Chapter 7 The Thread That Binds Together: Lidice, Oradour, Putten, and the Memory of World War II
    (pp. 120-135)
    Madelon de Keizer

    1997 was a busy year for the committee members of The October 44 Foundation (Stichting Oktober 44). In that year, the foundation organized a lecture given by the son of a Jewish family that had gone into hiding in the small Dutch village of Putten. A commemorative stone was unveiled in memory of four Canadian soldiers who were killed during the liberation of the village in 1945, and there was also a large number of lectures given by committee members recalling the raid on Putten in October 1944, when six hundred men and boys were rounded up and deported to...

  11. Chapter 8 Memory of World War II in France: National and Transnational Dynamics
    (pp. 136-148)
    Henning Meyer

    For more than twenty years, historians, literary scholars, and social scientists have been paying more attention to the subject of collective memory, focusing particularly on memorial places as “references” that contribute greatly to the (re)formation of societal memories.¹ The vast majority of this new scholarship has analyzed and interpreted national memory dynamics, but recent years have witnessed the introduction of the idea of “European” and even “global” memorieas and memorial places. Pierre Nora, the French historian who helped to pioneer the contemporary study of collective memory through his concept of thelieux de memoire,² pointed out in the epilogue to...

  12. Chapter 9 The Field of the Blackbirds and the Battle for Europe
    (pp. 149-165)
    Anna Di Lellio

    Historical memory is highly performative at the field of the blackbirds, a rolling Kosovo flatland six kilometers to the northwest of the capital Prishtina. At this site, in June 1389, a coalition of regional forces, led by the Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, faced the Ottoman army of Sultan Murat I. Both leaders were killed in a battle that apparently ended with no decisive victory but led to the submission of the local nobility, shortly thereafter. The Ottomans then ruled over the Balkans until the twentieth century. Monuments marking the battlefield are placed a few kilometers apart: a memorial to the...

  13. Chapter 10 Transformation of Memory in Croatia: Removing Yugoslav Anti-Fascism
    (pp. 166-179)
    Ljiljana Radonic

    Recent decades have witnessed a growth in the interdisciplinary study of collective memory, especially in relation to the Holocaust and World War II. At least in Western countries, the Holocaust has become a “negative icon,”¹ a universal imperative to respect human rights in general, and a “container” for the memory of different victims, as Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider put it.² Moreover, in Europe this “universalization of the Holocaust” includes another discursive dimension—the “rupture in civilization” (Zivilisationsbruch Auschwitz)³—that has increasingly become a negative European founding myth. The unified Europe after 1945 is understood as a collective sharing a...

  14. Chapter 11 German Victimhood Discourse in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 180-194)
    Bill Niven

    Sometimes, those who research the way today’s Germany remembers its problematic past fall into the trap of imagining that it is the only country which has such a past to face. We often consider German national history to be some way “unique,” as reflected, for instance, in the horrific perpetration of the Holocaust, the process of division and unification, its own particular inflection of the Cold War, and the ongoing legacy of a “double past” of National Socialism and Stalinism. However, if we consider developments in Germany’s culture of memory largely in national terms, we run the risk of overlooking...

  15. Chapter 12 Shaking Off the Past? The New Germany in the New Europe
    (pp. 195-208)
    Ruth Wittlinger

    Collective memory of the Holocaust and World War II long provided the single most important factor in determining the scope of (West) Germany’s foreign policy in general, as well as its European policy in particular.¹ In view of the moral, as well as material, bankruptcy of Germany in 1945 and foreign occupation in the immediate aftermath of the war, West Germany’s foreign policy did not have much room for maneuver. It was also constrained by the emerging Cold War and its position as an increasingly important ally of the Western alliance system, as well as by the norms and values...

  16. Conclusion A Plea for an “Intergovernmental” European Memory
    (pp. 209-221)
    Eric Langenbacher

    The contributors to this volume have examined many of the most important theoretical and empirical dynamics affecting collective memories in early twenty-first-century Europe. The innovative, conceptual approaches include the emphasis placed on “hinge” generations in East and West, the necessity of explicitly gender-based analytics, the “memory-market dictum,” dynamics of family memory, and the distinction between nationalized memory discourses and meta-narrativity. Several chapters delve into intellectual history, looking at the early twentieth-century genesis and post–World War II evolution of the European idea, and the nexus between collective identity, the nation-state, and memory as they pertain to the construction of European...

  17. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 222-225)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 226-236)
  19. Index
    (pp. 237-242)