Transforming Memory and the European Project
Abstract

Ideas about the future of Europe have been articulated from the late 1940s in tandem with ideas about the European past and the need to overcome its violence. This has led to the gradual emergence of a master-narrative that found expression in the Nobel Peace Prize of 2012 as well as in the planning of a "European House of History" in Brussels, which sees the European Union as the outcome of an ability to overcome the divisions of the past. Despite the availability of such a master-narrative, however, policy-makers continue to express their concern about the failure of citizens to identify with the European project. This article builds on recent developments in cultural memory studies to engage critically with these ongoing public debates. While sharing their underlying premise that collective memory is a key resource in promoting present and future solidarity, it challenges the prevailing concept of memory, modeled on nineteenth-century nationalism, that sees it as a common legacy exclusively inherited by a pregiven group. It proposes instead a dynamic, performative, and affiliative model of memory production based on its capacity to renegotiate the borders of communities rather than merely express and enshrine old ones. This transformative view of memory is more appropriate when conceiving of new forms of citizenship within a rapidly changing European Union than the ethnic-nationalist models inherited from the nineteenth century.


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