Challenging the Paradigms of Memory Politics in Europe
Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)
Palais Epstein, Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring 3
Vienna, 27 November – 29 November 2017
Call for Papers
Martyrdom has a long tradition in European culture. In the nineteenth century, the cult of death became a major symbolic element of nation-building, shifting the focus from the heroic commander to the suffering soldier. This transition created common, Europe-wide rituals and iconographies of suffering for the nation while also opening up the battlefield for rivalry between these nations.
In the carnage of the First World War, this heroic construction of martyrdom faced increasing competition. Yet exclusionary, competitive, and ostracising nation-building processes, which from the beginning marginalised many groups such as women or ethnic and religious minorities, ultimately led to the Second World War and the Holocaust as a social, political, as well as physical annihilation of human beings.
After 1945, within the context of the post-war reconstruction of Europe, memory of the murder of European Jewry was established within the framework of an antifascist resistance narrative, building on the notion of a national (and sometimes antifascist) martyrdom, thereby denying the specificity of Jewish suffering and excluding the Holocaust from national histories. With the collapse of the European political blocs in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the fading of ideological boundaries, this national antifascist resistance narrative lost its credibility as it became clear that it could not address, let alone overcome the trauma-rooted, terrible experience of the Holocaust. Recognition of victimhood now came to the fore.
Thus, the Holocaust became more or less the only generally recognised and accepted transnational European historical event, serving as a form of symbolic ‘container’ for the construction of a European identity – albeit always challenged by many other historical traumas, especially at the peripheries of the continent: Stalinism, the Spanish Civil War, or the Irish Potato Famine. This produced a hegemonic, exclusive and simultaneously very vulnerable centre-oriented discourse of ‘Europeanism’.
The aim of our conference is a critical assessment of dominant narratives of the Holocaust and the Second World War, their antecedents, and their consequences. While exploring historical memory in neighbouring countries and peoples, majority societies and their many types of minorities, the conference wishes to deliver deeper knowledge on how victimhood affects attitudes toward Europe and the EU.
The conference will challenge the various victimhood narratives by posing the following questions:
- How can one identify and deconstruct national narratives of victimhood in historiography and memory politics?
- Why and how has the master narrative of the Holocaust enabled the articulation and consolidation of troubled pasts of the Second World War while in many respects remaining limited and exclusive?
- How do different historical experiences shape different memory politics?
- Where are the limits of representation of victimhood within the framework of the paradigm of Holocaust remembrance?
- What are the specific forms of articulating suffering in the European peripheries and semi-colonialised regions?
- What is the role and function of memory sites, memorials, museums, killing sites, etc. in the competition of representing end overcoming the self-victimology discourse?
- What is the social and political impact of victimhood narratives in European societies and social movements? How can marginalised social groups make their suffering recognisable?
- How can facts and events that have been repressed or dismissed from individual and collective memory be reintegrated into consciousness?
- How to merge a growing discrepancy between new historiography of Central-Eastern Europe addressing the Holocaust and representation of the Holocaust in education and museums?
The conference languages will be German and English. Individual papers or complete panels of up to four contributions each are welcome.
The VWI will cover accommodation fees. The institute is also endeavouring to find separate funding to be able to reimburse some of the participants’ travel costs.
Proposals should be written in German or in English and include an outline of the topic of no more than 600 words, as well as a short CV and a short list of publications. Please send your application in one integrated PDF file by email with the subject “SWC 2017” to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 30 July 2017.
Publication of conference proceedings is planned.