CULTURAL HERITAGE OF WAR IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY EUROPE

Event date: 26.04.2017 Time: 17:00 Hall: Golden Hall Organizer: Department of History Project: Memory Studies Seminar Speaker: Stefan Berger

Cultural Heritage of War in Twentieth-Century Europe – from antagonistic to agonistic memory

This paper will start from the observation that the memory politics of the European Union is currently unable to counter the surge of populist anti-European feeling in Europe. It will discuss this in particular in relation to history debates surrounding Brexit and make reference to other history debates in France, the Netherlands and Germany. The paper will go on to argue that the particular cosmopolitan memory regime espoused by the EU seems powerless to to trump the range of vernacular national memory regimes working against the EU. It will introduce the ideas of French political theorist Chantal Mouffe, who has argued that such cosmopolitanism fails because it depoliticises memory. As depoliticised memory it cannot counter the highly political charges brought against Europe by anti-European populist movements. Mouffe’s solution to the problem is the introduction of what she calls ‘agonistic memory’ – a form of memory which allows controversy and debate but stops short of traditional antagonistic forms of memory. The paper will then use two case studies in order, first, to discuss what forms of memory dominate in Europe today and, secondly, to see how an agonistic approach to memory might empower the EU to counter populist anti-European movements more effectively. The first case study concerns the exhumations of human bodies who have been killed in war, and the second case study concerns war museums in contemporary Europe.

Stefan Berger - Director of the Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, and Chairman of the committee of the Library of the Ruhr Foundation. He is Professor of Social History at the Ruhr University.

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