Freie Universität Berlin

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Nadine Blumer, University of Toronto, Dept. of Sociology

Memorial to the Murdered Sinti and Roma of Europe: Building Blocks of Collective Identities

This dissertation explores the relationship between memory, memorialisation and collective identity.Drawing on the theory of “relational ethnicity,” I examine how groups actively define and shape the boundaries of collective identity in reference to and against one another. Specifically, I situate the proposed Holocaust memorial in Berlin to the murdered Sinti and Roma of Europe as a site from which to analyze how intergroup relations and the politics of collective memory inform one another in the production of collective identities. I look at the use of various “memory strategies” – where the past is used in the present to further specific objectives for the future – and how these map on to the current period of expanding European integration, in which German society is negotiating between a German national identity and emerging forms of a European global identity. This notion of strategic remembering alongside questions of national identity (or more globalized, European identities) in the post-Holocaust era further supports a relational understanding of ethnicity as we gain insight into the “ideological labor” – or function – that different minority groups perform in the definition of a state’s political and symbolic identity. The proposed Sinti and Roma memorial – and the ways in which it is represented and debated in contemporary German society – offers a unique position from which to explore specific themes related to the Holocaust’s “forgotten victims”; theoretically it provides a site from which to analyze different dimensions of intergroup relations and collective remembering through which both ethnic groups as well as majority society are defined.