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Jenny Wüstenberg, American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service

Constructing Memory in the European Union: Actors and Networks

In the face of political and economic crisis in the European Union, the historical underpinnings of integration have acquired a heightened importance as a way to bind Europeans together. Academics and practitioners alike have called for the construction of a joint European culture of remembrance. However, solemn declarations aside, European history appears to be a divisive rather than uniting force. While World War Two is universally important, the ways in which it was experienced and remembered vary tremendously. Memories of victimhood, collaboration, resistance, and perpetration co-mingle in complicated ways and continue to influence current bilateral relations. Moreover, the experience of communist repression and its legacies take on a crucial role in East-Central Europe – influencing not only how Holocaust and German occupation are understood, but also shaping the expectations of what should be part of a common European memory. In addition to all this, processes of European integration since 1945 and identification with the European project have differed in each member society. In short, a collective European memory will not “naturally” emerge – instead it must be actively pursued if it is to become a reality. There are a host of actors – national, transnational and civic – who have done just that.

My project will examine the strategies and actions of these diverse actors--many based in Berlin--to create a European memory culture by linking their efforts through cross-institutional and transnational networks. My research will be innovative in bringing the lens of memory studies and relational methodology to the field of EU studies. A social network approach focused on key nodes in Berlin will not only allow me to provide a comprehensive map of existing memory initiatives in Europe, but also to show how various kinds of European memories are grounded socially and spatially, as opposed to merely conjured up in elite discourses. I will seek to answer questions such as: who are the key actors in European memory networks? Are they institutional, non-governmental, transnational? How are they organized and with whom do they cooperate? Who are the most influential actors and why are they influential? Are various networks interlinked with each other? And what are the outcomes in terms of which historical memories become prominent and transcend national boundaries? My research will be based on interviews with participants in memory networks, archival research, social network analysis.