Session SS39. On the Margins of Memory. Comparing Memory Cultures in European Border Cities in the Twentieth Century.
Coordinators: Borut Klabjan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Brigitte Le Normand (email@example.com)
This panel aims to understand how cultures of remembrance and commemoration and politics of memory formed, intertwined and overlapped in European border cities that in the twentieth century have been the theatre of political border changes. These memory cultures are most complex and instable in ethnically mixed regions with a long record of political and symbolic border shifts. Consequently, such cities provide a particularly appropriate setting for an investigation which aims to develop a more complex understanding of links among identity, belonging, nationality (and related myths) and their symbols. Examples might include Trieste, Koper, Rijeka, Strasbourg, Szczecin, Wroclaw, Užhorod, Lviv, Košice, Brest, Narva, and Kaliningrad.
The drawing and redrawing of borders in Central and Eastern Europe after the Second World War actually began in the wake of the First World War, and was again revisited after the end of state socialism in Europe and the ensuing expansion of the European Union. Each modification of the border and border regime was accompanied and followed by vigorous contestation, often taking the form of commemorative practices. Thus, using a longer time span as framework, from the beginning of the twentieth century until the present, highlights the entanglement of the various events of the 20th century and allows us to identify different configurations of links among space, state and identity.
The case studies allow for comparison in time and space which are crucial, because we ask how larger historical processes and the nature of political regimes shaped politics of memory in divergent ideological and socio-economic contexts. We will compare the functioning of specific memory politics in such places during World War I, the interwar period, War World II, the Cold War, and post-1989 period. These periods are linked with the re-configuration of state boundaries and the change of political hegemonies.
This panel builds on the methodological approaches of historians dealing with memory and place, beginning with Pierre Nora’s concept of “Lieux de Mémoire” (Nora 1984). Commemorative practices become ways of re-enacting the struggles of the past, recalling Henry Rousso’s notion, applied to the Vichy regime in France, of “un passé qui ne passe pas” (Rousso 2013), which Katherine Verdery has demonstrated applies equally well in the aftermath of the Cold War (Verdery 2013). Sustained scholarly attention has recently been paid to the erasure of old identities and invention of news pasts in cities which transitioned from one state to another following border changes (Amar 2015, Musekamp 2010, Polak-Springer 2015, Service 2013), providing a good foundation for exploring the cultures of commemoration and remembrance in Central and Eastern Europe.
With this panel we aim to contribute to a better, more empirically grounded examination of topics related to recent historiography and other disciplines, such as memory and border studies.
Keywords: politics of memory; remembrance; commemoration; borders; europe; twentieth century