European Memory has become an omnipresent phenomenon of our times. Both scholarship and the public sphere frequently refer to the European quality of something past or a specifically European way of remembering. It is, however, especially in Europe’s present crisis that these discussions on European memory reveal conflicts and a broad, often contradictory meaning of ‘Europe’. Practices of universalising the past are central to these conflicts and allow for an in-depth understanding of European Memory.
Invoking ‘European memory’ promises to overcome such conflicts by acknowledging difference and relating particular memories to other memories, i.e. those of different experiences or those of different people. This process of universalizing memory reduces difference, omits contexts, and eventually diffuses conflicts. To confront this bias, future research needs to employ an understanding of European Memory as a discursive reality rather than a normative ideal. In a new special issue of the European Review of History recently published, we – Friedemann Pestel, Rieke Trimçev, Gregor Feindt, and Félix Krawatzek – have taken up this challenge and confronted our discursive approach towards ‘European Memory’ with a set of empirical examples, ranging from the early modern memory of ‘Turk’, Versailles and French May 1968 to the massacre of Srebrenica. This blog post outlines ideas and central findings from the Special Issue ‘European Memory: Universalising the Past?’. Continue reading