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Session Overview
Panel 811: Narratives of Multiple Pasts in the European Union
Wednesday, 04/Sep/2019:
9:30am - 11:00am

Session Chair: Wolfram Kaiser, University of Portsmouth
Location: Anfiteatro 1

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Narratives of Multiple Pasts in the European Union

Chair(s): Wolfram Kaiser (University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom)

Brexit and other recent crises in the European Union provide ample evidence of highly divergent memories and narratives based on historical experience creating great friction within and across the member-states. This panel explores different types of narratives of twentieth-century European history which have potential for emphasizing difference or commonalities, and for treating and representing European history as shared history, and how they may have been influence by transnational/international actors like the EU and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The panel combines one paper on the only museum narrative of European history as shared history in the European Parliament's House of European History in Brussels with three papers on three peripheral EU member states, Portugal, Romania, and the Baltic states.


Presentations of the Symposium


Narratives of Shared Past in the House of European History

Wolfram Kaiser
University of Portsmouth

Based on fresh research on its first permanent exhibition, media reports and visitor feedback, this paper explores the House of European History's attempt to narrate twentieth-century history as a history of a shared past. Focussing especially on the Second World War and the Cold War periods, it discusses how the museum has attempted to strike a compromise between the two narratives of singularity of the Holocaust and the totalitarian paradigm. It asks in particular for what political and curatorial reasons this attempt has been made and how the resulting exhibition has been received by the media and the visitors.


Changing Narratives of the Holocaust in Portuguese Society

Cláudia Ninha
FCSH/Nova, Lisbon

For a long time the society of Portugal as a neutral country during the war was characterized by amnesia concerning the Holocaust. Based on fresh research on media reports, school curricula and other sources, this paper explores the role of the European-dominated International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and other external actors in fostering research and education about the Holocaust in Portugal. It shows how Portugal has gradually been claiming the Holocaust as shared European memory. In this sense, it is an example of what Levy/Sznaider have claimed about the Holocaust becoming a “global collective memory” during the last decade.


Changing Narratives of World War II and Communism in Baltic History Museums

Ene Kõresaar, Kirsti Jõesalu
University of Tartu

Based on fresh research on the revamping of Baltic museums on the occasion of 100 years of independence of Baltic states during 2017-18, this paper explores the resulting museological narratives of World War II and the communist past. It will map them comparatively based on curator interviews and anthropological documentation of the core exhibitions of the Estonian History Museum, the National History Museum of Latvia, the Latvian Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, the Estonian Museum of Occupations and Freedom Vabamu as well as the Museums for Latvia’s 100th Anniversary Exhibition Project. The change and the continuity of the “occupation paradigm” in Baltic museum narratives will be juxtaposed with these museums’ assumed role in the inter/national museum and mnemonic landscape and the official memory policies in Estonia and Latvia.


Divergent Narratives of the Communist Past in Postcommunist Romania

Claudia-Florentina Dobre
University of Bukarest

30 years after the fall of communism, the Romanian memorial landscape is still shaped by the political order and its immediate concerns. This paper will explore the different approaches and levels of remembering communism in Romania. The paper will analyze the various “memorial regimes” which dominated the public space after the fall of communism and were to some extent influenced by EU institutions. Analyzing personal narratives and poll data concerning the perception of communism, the paper argues, however, that notwithstanding European and national efforts to manufacture a “black memory” of communism, individual recollections range from grey to “pink” to the “red” stage of communist nostalgia.

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