European Identity between Dictatorship and Freedom in the Twentieth Century
IUC Dubrovnik. September 6-10, 2010
National Memories / European Memories.
Identity Discourses in Europe: Between Fragmentation and Recomposition?
Can we, should we work on a common memory in Europe? In February 2007, the President of the European Parliament, Pöttering, proposed establishing a “House of European History” in Brussels. A commission of experts was formed to consider a conceptual basis. The remit for this “House” should be to develop a common memory to advance the European idea.
Currently, the question of collective identities is being debated. After the collapse of the socialist bloc (Yugoslavia included) we experienced a “return of the nations” and a return of national memories. Renan’s definition of the nation is well known (the desire of a people to live together, having done great things together and wishing to do more). The “daily plebiscite” is based on the feeling of belonging to a common history and participating in a common project. The internationalism associated with “real existing socialism” did not eradicate national memories. And it seems as if the more geopolitical unities and political and economic institutions tend to expand, then the more collective identities and memories are being fragmented. The enlargement of Europe is very often accompanied by a withdrawal of the identity of the nations (expressing itself in populist concepts) or by the return of a repressed past, e.g. the memories of empires in Eastern Europe, the memory of the “double monarchy”, the Ottoman and the Tsarist Empires; the return of the national religions; the rediscovery of a past menaced by oblivion like the history of the Jews in Europe, of threatened and/or displaced populations, etc. So, different memories started to compete with each other, between and within the nations.
In the light of the double challenge of the construction of Europe and the globalization, regional memories are achieving importance as phenomena to be protected, encouraged by a European discourse about a “Europe of the Regions”. Moreover, migrations and problems of integration are presenting European countries with the problem of choosing between a “dominat culture” or the acceptance of multiculturalism or comunitarianism.
Conversely, certain efforts have already been made in favour of mutual understanding, even a fusion of horizons and memories, e.g. by the French-German history book which will soon be followed by a German-Dutch one. But there is also much reticence, for example in the case of establishing a centre in Berlin dedicated to the history of refugees.
This course will examine these complex and often contradictory tendencies by using historical examples to illuminate present difficulties. Especially we will examine the articulation of different memories in Europe in its different countries and the coexistence of different levels of identification of individuals and groups. Mutual understanding takes place by the recognition of different memories whose legitimacy must be accepted. Does not the future of Europe exist in a “cosmopolitan” form in which common norms will allow to deal with the otherness? The programme of the course should consider at the same time chronological and geographical or geopolitical perspectives, considering the differences in the problems in Western and Central Europe.