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Stefan Berger: „Agonistic memory is open-endedly dialogic in a Bakthinian sense“

Stefan Berger: „Agonistic memory is open-endedly dialogic in a Bakthinian sense“

Stefan Berger, Director of the Institute for Social Movements at Ruhr University Bochum (Germany), Chairman of the History of the Ruhr Foundation, Professor of Social History at the Ruhr University Bochum, Honorary Professory at Cardiff University (United Kingdom). His most important books are:

The British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats, 1900 - 1931. A Comparison, Oxford University Press, 1994, 302 pp.; reprinted 2002; translated as: Ungleiche Genossen? Die britische Labour Party und die deutsche SPD bis 1931, J.W.H. Dietz Publishers, 1997, 308 pp.

The Search for Normality. National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Germany Since 1800, Berghahn Books, 1997, 307 pp.; 2nd edn with new preface: '"The Search for Normality" Six Years Later: History Writing and National Identity in Germany at the Beginning of the 21st Century', 2003, xxvi +308 pp.

Social Democracy and the Working-Class in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Germany, Longman, 2000, 287 pp.

Inventing the Nation: Germany, Edward Arnold, 2004, 274 pp.

Friendly Enemies: British-GDR Relations, 1949 – 1990, co-authored with Norman LaPorte. Berghahn Books 2010, 386 pp.

The Past as History: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe, single-authored with Christoph Conrad, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, 570 pp.

Internet links to author’s publications:

The personal website:

  1. Your academic career started with comparative studies, which is a traditional realm for historians. Why did you move towards the interdisciplinary field of national identity and memory?

When I started with comparative history, I would argue that it was something that had often been demanded but was actually rarely done. Marc Bloch famously called for more comparative history as early as 1928 but the profession has been suffering from ‘methodological nationalism’ for a long time after that and I would argue that it is still not overcome today. I see a major challenge today to combine transnational and comparative perspectives in historical scholarship and move towards global perspectives, in social movement studies,[1] the history of historiography,[2] in deindustrialization studies,[3] labour history[4] and in memory studies[5] – to name the fields that I have been most active in over recent years. I have just revised my article on comparative and transnational history for the third edition of ‘Writing History: Theory and Practice’ that I co-edit with Kevin Passmore and Heiko Feldner and that will come out in 2020. Here I underline the difficulties and potentialities of comparative and transnational history writing that I still firmly believe in.

I moved to national identity and memory through historiography, because I followed with increasing fascination how historical master narratives were changing in Germany following the reunification of the country in 1990. I was so intrigued about this that I decided to write a book about it: The Search for Normality: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Germany since 1800, 2nd edn, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2003. From there I dealt with German national identity and memory more generally in my ‘Inventing Germany’ book (Edward Arnold, 2005). And then I remembered transnational and comparative history and got interested in how these connections between history writing and national identity formation worked in other places than Germany.

  1. In your seminal book “The Past as History: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) you convincingly argue that historians of XIX and XX centuries played an important role in shaping the nation-state frameworks through justifying claims to “our historical territories”, which are temporarily occupied by the neighboring “eternal enemies”. Therefore, historians are also responsible for instigation of both world wars and horrible genocides of the last century. It was revelatory to know from your book that current ubiquitous nationalistic turn firstly started in the realm of historiography of 1980-s, when many of us believed that collapse of communist regimes opened the way to the liberal global humanity. It means that the historical corporation is partly responsible for the dangerous nationalistic trend of XXI century as well. In that context your argument, that the process of historical community’s professionalization during XIX and XX centuries was accompanied by its growing nationalism, looks surprisingly, because declared ethics of a professional historian does not permit to be involved in any kind of propaganda, our objective is to search “what actually happened.” How do you explain that paradox?

Indeed, the book you mention is the result of a European Science Foundation project that involved more than 250 scholars from 29 European nations and that kept me occupied between 2003 and 2015, when the book appeared as an attempt to synthesise the results of this project. One of the arguments that I am trying to make here is that professionalization of history writing was one way of setting up the historical profession as the only one that can speak authoritatively about the past. It was, however, precisely this authoritativeness that made historians important for those forces competing for political power and the history of historiography shows that historians were not shy in promoting a very wide range of political causes, nationalism foremost among them. The ‘noble ideal’ of objectivity was one that was always to a certain extent ideology, as any narrative framing of stories involves normative political choices that precede the writing of history. That, of course, does not mean that historians should give up on professionalism. It remains the ground zero of our profession and if we give it up we open the floodgates to those intent on falsifying the past. But at the same time we have to realize that the highest degree of professionalism does not protect us from our own normative political choices.

That also brings history and memory closer together: I share the argument put forward by my good friend Wulf Kansteiner that historians should perhaps best be seen as one influential group of memory auteurs who have a significant role in shaping memory in any given society. The distinction between history and memory that is present in Maurice Halbwachs and taken over by Pierre Nora and still informs much writing in memory studies seems to me to be unsustainable.

  1. There is common opinion that shared collective memory and identity are obligatory preconditions for the nation-states and other big groups’ existence because people are able to sacrifice their lives during the wars and other extreme challenges only if they have an irrational sacral feeling of “communality”. In your mentioned book you put that approach under a question and argue that the nation-state does not need the collective identity because the group solidarities “have the rational core”. You formulate the hard argument of “liberal nationalists” as a rhetoric question: “Why should anyone pay taxes, go to war or do anything <…> if there is no notion of collective identity?” Replying them you excluded the necessity to “go to war” from the list of “particular duties to be performed in the name of the community” reducing it to the singular duty of “our payment of taxes.” Did you really believe that the wars are an improbable option for the current international relations or maybe you assume that a military sacrificing has “the rational core” as well?

I have time and again warned not to underestimate the power of nationalism and the need for people to identify with collectives, in particular national collectives. It is not a ‘natural’ need, but one that has, time and again, been extremely useful to mobilize people behind specific forms of policy. In our global and transnational age many commentators have underestimated the power of the nation, of national identity and of nationalism. And because of this power to make people go to war, to participate in ethnic cleansing and genocide, we need, in my view, come to forms of collective identity, including national identity that are more self-reflexive and more playful – that allow people, in other words, to see through the attempts to functionalize those identities for political purposes. As producers of national historical master narratives and narrators of memory, this is also a task for professional historians.

  1. You are one of the leaders of a new “agonistic” approach to memory studies. You argue that “agonistic forms of memory would be far more able to engage with and ultimately defeat the right-wing memory politics than the cosmopolitan memory.” You describe the “agonistic memory” as a kind of medium between extremities of the national “antagonistic memory” and the transnational “cosmopolitan memory”. Those three kinds of memory correlate with each other as “ideal types in the Weberian sense”. Could you present the concept of agonistic memory through comparison with two other “ideal types”: 1) which characteristic of agonistic memory are specific, 2) which ones are common with antagonistic memory and 3) which ones are common with cosmopolitan memory?

Between 2016 and 2019 I have been leading a Horizon 2020 project on ‘Unsettling Remembrance and Social Cohesion in Contemporary Europe’ (UNREST) in which I cooperated closely with Anna Cento Bull and Hans Lauge Hansen, who, in 2016, published a seminal article on ‘agonistic memory’ in the journal ‘Memory Studies’. This was the starting point for a theoretical exploration of memory regimes in contemporary Europe in relation to the memory of war. (see for the project) In a nutshell Bull and Hansen differentiated three ideal types of memory regimes, first antagonistic forms of memory that includes nationalist memory that distinguishes clearly between friends and enemies and is only interested in strengthening a ‘we’ identity through the exclusion of ‘the other’. It is entirely monologic and works with passions of belonging that exclude others and are inherently xenophobic. A second type of memory is ‘cosmopolitan memory’ which also works with binary divides of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but this time they relate to ideologies. Cosmopolitan memory sides with liberal democracy and human rights and its ‘other’ are all forms of totalitarianism. It is highly self-reflexive and dialogic, even multi-vocal, but it largely identifies and foregrounds the memory of the victims as it seeks to engender passions for the victims of violent conflict. And its dialogical nature is limited, as it ultimately seeks for closure in an intersubjective consensus which is the end of a dialogue. After this end is reached, those who stand outside of the consensus are no longer part of the dialogue. By contrast, ‘agonistic memory’ is open-endedly dialogic in a Bakthinian sense and recognizes that there can never be closure in memory discourses. Instead it perceives memory struggles as political struggles and it seeks to repoliticise memory struggles that have, in effect, been depoliticized by cosmopolitan forms of memory. It works with passions of solidarity and its normative and political sympathies lie with the political left. None of these three memory regimes are easy to locate in time, although we can say that nineteenth and early twentieth-century nationalist memory comes close to antagonistic forms of memory, the Habermasian idea of deliberative democracy underlies cosmopolitan memory that finds one of its strongest advocates in the memory politics of the European Union and agonistic memory is one that is often championed by left-of-center social movements. But antagonistic memory is clearly still with us in the present, cosmopolitan forms of memory can be traced back to ancient and medieval times and agonistic interventions are also present in the deep past (see the six-volume Cultural History of Memory that I have been editing with Jeff Olick for Bloomsbury and that will be published in 2020).

The UNREST project will also be publishing a volume in which it presents the results of the three-year project, including a re-assessment of the theoretical model of Bull and Hansen from 2016. The book will be published with Palgrave MacMillan in 2020 and include references to the many publications produced by project members.

How would such an agonistic memory in relation to the memory of war and national histories look like?[6] For a start, agonistic memory shies away from moral binaries, as these tend to prevent attempts socially and historically to contextualise conflict and violence. Radical historicisation leading to a deeper understanding of the past is preferred to simple moral judgements about the past. A more radical multi-perspectivity would allow the presentation and discussion of different positions regarding national historical master narratives and the memory of war and violent conflict. In fact all positions would be part of an agonistic discourse, as long as they accept the rules of the game: a democratic framework for discussion and the acceptance of the other and of the others’ positions as legitimate. The borders of legitimacy within an agonistic memory discourse are porous but not non-existent. Thus, it has to be clear that certain memory positions are not acceptable in a democratic agonistic framework, not only because they are morally reprehensible, but also because they are clearly falsifiable using historical methods, such as source criticism. Holocaust denial, genocide denial more generally, and the disrespectful handling of the memory of victims of war and violence are areas where agonistic memory will also have to exclude certain positions from entering the debate about the memory of the twentieth century. Like antagonistic and cosmopolitan memory, agonistic memory is also passionate – neither about the ‘self’ nor about the victims, but about forms of social solidarity. In other words, the conceptualisation of agonistic memory is one that speaks to the concerns of a democratic left that seeks to provide greater social cohesion and more social justice as well as more democracy and greater power to the people in democratically constituted societies. In this sense, agonistic memory has a normative political frame and is committed to a left-wing politics incompatible with the dominant neoliberalism inside the EU and with the rise of populist right-wing movements challenging the authority of the EU. Agonistic memory seeks to empower a politics of the left that is convinced of the need to re-embed capitalism in what it understands to be a new Polanyian moment in world economics, and that is convinced of the need to democratize all spheres of life, from gender politics of the everyday to the high politics of the European Union.[7]

But agonism cannot only be applied to nationalism and war. I am also currently working on the memory of deindustrialization in comparative and transnational perspective and here I am also using the concept of agonistic memory to move beyond the variants of antagonistic and cosmopolitan memories that have been produced by narratives of deindustrialization so far. Together with my friend and colleague I published a special issue of the North-American journal ‘Labor: Studies in Working-Class History’ in 2019 in which we explore some of these issues.

  1. In your opinion agonistic memory is “deeply dialogic and seeks to engage the political adversary in contestation and debate and achieve hegemony through the force of the better argument within democratic political frameworks.” It means that “a judge” of that “agon” is the public. It looks realistic when we have deal with some domestic controversies. It is possible to imagine that in the “wonderful Russia of the future” an agonistic memory competition would result in a public consensus that Stalin’s regime committed awful crimes against humanity and Russians were the main victims of that regime. I am not able to realize how it is possible to solve any international memory conflicts when “the judging public” is split between “patriots” of “their own” nation-states, for example in the case of responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War. I am sure after such “agon” many Russians would strengthen their believe that Great Britain and France are mainly responsible for the Second World War because their betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938. That gave an incentive to Hitler to develop the annihilation war against the Soviet Union, hence the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was the necessary measure to postpone the war. The EU opponents of Russians not prepared to change their opinion that Munich 1938 was an insignificant political mistake and the real perpetrators were only Hitler and Stalin ( Maybe my example is not fully relevant because Russia is a pseudo-democratic country. Unfortunately, the media debates of last decades show that there are no changes in the French and British public opinion. Their parliaments still did not apologies for their shameful attitude towards Czechoslovakia in 1938. I believe we should transcend beyond the nation-state frameworks towards transnational cosmopolitan memory in order to change that desperate situation. I guess your opinion differs. Can you provide cases when international memory controversies between real democracies were solved in agonistic way?

These are a lot of issues packed into one question. For a start, I do believe that full-blown agonism and developed agonistic memory cultures are only possible within democratic political frameworks in which political opponents accept each other as adversaries, in which the rule of law is upheld, in which human rights and rights of minorities are protected and in which there is a division of legislatve, executive and judicial powers. I do not see Russia as one of those countries. Nevertheless agonistic interventions may be possible also in Russia and other places that lack some of the characteristics of a democratic state.

Regarding the issue of the responsibility of the Second World War, an agonistic intervention in Russia might be to remind Russians more concretely and urgently about the crimes of Stalinism and about his responsibility for the Second World War (by signing the Hitler-Stalin pact), as this is a position that, if I understand correctly, is not a dominant one inside the debates of Russia today. An agonistic intervention in Britain and France might be to highlight the role of the betrayal of Czechoslovakia in Munich, a position which is clearly all-too often sidelines in debates in the West. I have been deeply critical of the totalitarian master frame for the memory of the twentieth century as it is presented in the House of European History in Brussels, because I believe that it is prolonging the anti-communist and ultimately anti-Russian reflexes of the West into the twenty-first century.

Let us have a look at the depiction of war in the House of European History in Brussels.[8] Here one would expect to find the kind of cosmopolitan memory that agonism is directed against. The idea for such a museum was first put forward by the then president of the European parliament Hans-Gerd Pöttering.[9] It was closely connected to attempts made by European politicians to underpin the European project culturally.[10] Its mission statement included the aim to create ‘a place where a memory of European history and the work of European unification is jointly cultivated’. On the basis of this the commission of experts conceptualising the House of European History in 2008 hoped to promote historical dialogue leading to a ‘shared view on the past, present and future of Europe’.[11] The museum, as hoped by many of its makers, would contribute to the further Europeanization of national memory.[12] Thus the museum project is part and parcel of increasing attempts to ‘narrate European integration’.[13] The project, however, missed an important chance in doing so, as it failed to engender major debates about European history and European identity as well as its representations in a museum. There was very little historical dialogue in the (still largely nationalised) public sphere in Europe in the process of making the museum. In fact, the preparation for the exhibition went on for years in Brussels and it involved a highly competent and professional team of historians and museum curators, with lots of advice given by other history museums. The importance of professional historians in this and other museums reminds us of what Barkan in his introduction refers to as the ‘continued impact’ of history on contemporary politics.[14] The making of the museum was therefore internally dialogic and there was also an attempt to engage professionals outside the small curatorial team. Yet, in relation to the wider public, the making of the museum was highly undialogic.[15] What then is the message and the representations of Europe that are now on display at a former dental clinic, a place of pain and suffering that can however, also be construed as a place to relieve pain and suffering, right next to the European parliament in Brussels? [image 1: photo of the House of European History]

Visiting the museum, one is first confronted with the ancient myths of Europe and its representations throughout the ages. Europe is here confirmed as an ancient and persistent idea in European history. The narrative follows the pattern of nineteenth-century national historical master narratives which invariably stress the deep roots of the nation in time immemorial.[16] The representation of Europe through maps is prominently displayed and introduces the notion that Europe’s borders have been fluid and defined differently at different times in European history. This section aims at self-reflection on the part of the visitor about what borders Europe has today and how they relate to past constructions of Europe’s borders. It falls short of being an agonistic element in the exhibition, as it misses an opportunity to link different geographical conceptualisations of Europe’s borders with power conflicts and hegemonic ambitions of different power centres throughout the ages. Following the confrontation with maps the visitor is presented with a kind of black box that contains objects representing different facets of European history co-existing side by side. [image 2: ‘black box’ in the House of European History]

They include ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides and they are arranged in a way that the same phenomena can have a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ side. Prominent amongst those facets are ancient Greek philosophy, Christian religion, colonialism, slavery, the French revolution, the labour movement, and the emergence of a European public sphere. It is an impressive display of the fragmented character of the European past and of attempts to give meaning to those pasts. It is also an attempt to construct a sense of solidarity out of the past but at the same time to encourage the visitor to reflect on the very different elements that went into the making of cultural identities described as European. Many of those elements refer to abstract values and lend themselves to moral stances which makes the black box a cosmopolitan display par excellence. The main ambition of the introductory section of the museum seems to be to impress on the visitor a sense of the bordering of Europe through myths, geography, history and values/ ideas.

The visitor subsequently climbs upwards several floors to encounter a run through modern European history starting from the second half of the eighteenth century onwards and ending in the present. Conflict and war are of crucial importance to the evolving story of Europe. The revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are covered prominently, the conflict between social classes in the evolving industrial capitalism is displayed, the colonial wars and colonial violence are remembered. In all of those sections dedicated to war the museum emphasizes the suffering of the victims, including the slaves and colonial subjects – thereby championing cosmopolitan forms of memory. Cosmopolitanism is also dominant in the prominent representations of the two world wars and the Holocaust in the museum. The attention dedicated to the world wars is explained in terms of those wars often forming the core of an intensely national(ist) memory that is still heavily antagonistic and has been making the emergence of a pan-European memory narrative on the world wars difficult.[17] The First World War exhibits stress the victimhood of the mass slaughter at the front. The display on the Second World War emphasizes the suffering of ordinary civilians. The depiction of the holocaust is entirely in line with a long-standing attempt to make it a central negative anchor point of European identity.[18] The emphasis on human suffering and victimhood is linked to representations of a powerful human rights’ discourse emerging at the end of the Second World War and feeding into the making of the European Union in the Western part of the continent.

The subsequent period from the Cold War to the present day is dealt with in thematic blocks that confront developments in Communist Eastern Europe with developments in Western Europe, whilst throughout there is an accompanying narrative of the development of the EU that is depicted as the bringer of peace, prosperity and stability in Western Europe. After the fall of Communism the museum narrative stresses how these EU blessings are extended to the East, unifying the continent once again. The discussion of post-war Europeanisation processes is not bereft of problematisations and representation of crisis moments for the European project, but no visitor will leave this section of the museum without a strong sense of the moral righteousness of the European project. Overall the museum tells a story based on the advancement of universal values and it uses a strong moral compass that divides developments into good and evil (in the latter category both Hitler and Stalin figure prominently). A focus on the victims in European history blends with an upbeat assessment of the historical caesura set by the formation of the European Union. The cosmopolitan perspective totally dominates the House of European History. This is a finding in line with our assumption that the EU today is promoting, above all, cosmopolitan forms of memory. The museum encourages a dialogue with the past that posits a violent history of war and genocide against the promise of European peace, stability and modernity. Its univeralist future perspective is in itself monologic. Time and again it shies away from presenting a variety of ‘futures past’ and their relationship to the contemporary European projects.[19] It also shies away from directly representing conflicts between different European nation states that are still informing conflicts in Europe today. And it shies away from asking who, at different points in time, was ‘the other’ of conceptualisations of Europe. Denying the importance of the other for the cultural identity of Europe is yet another sign of cosmopolitanism. The conflicts that are represented in the museum are ‘made safe’ in the past and their pastness is confirmed though processes of Europeanisation.[20]

In order to start a meaningful transnational dialogue between Russia and the West, an agonistic intervention might be to bring those agonistic national interventions onto the transnational scene and look for memory narratives that would destabilize both the dominant frames in Russia and in the West. But, of course, in the current political climate this is a very hard thing to do.

  1. You note that antagonistic form of politics create effective solidarities within the nation-state by using “us versus them constructions of cultural identity”, where good “us” are in opposition to “them”, “other”, “foreigners” and even “enemies”. There are external and internal enemies, but the external dimension usually prevailed because internal enemies are not the sovereign entities, they are a “fifth column” of external enemies. So the construction of imagined community of “them”, who are “our” potential or real enemies, presumes that the border between “us” and “them” firstly is situated in the geographic space, outside of our nation-state territory. You refer to Chantal Mouffe, who argues that the transnational cosmopolitanism is not able to opposite far-right memory politics successfully, because it “simply ignored the fact that cultural identity needs ‘the other’”. That problem does exist in different transnational memory approaches, but it does not mean that we do not have any effective solution in that situation. There is a rhetoric statement of transnational memory opponents: “You cannot imagine ‘us’ without ‘the other’. If entire humankind are ‘us’, who then are ‘the other’, may be the penguins?” I guess that fellow nationalists do not pay enough attention to the fact that the images of “us” and “them” are mental constructions. Why should we believe that “the other” could be imagined only in the geographic or social space? I think we are able to construct communities “us” and “them” of transnational memory and identity in both – space and time – dimensions. The current transnational community of “us” includes majority of living people and all victims of the past (for example we should have equal compassion to Jewish and German children, women and elderly people who were killed during the Second World War). I think we should add to that community the heroes of the world culture. Unlike politicians, who usually try to divide people, great artists, writers and academics’ works, constitute the global heritage. Goethe, Shakespeare and Dostoevsky are ours! They always united the humankind. The community of “them” in that case includes modern fascists and far-right politicians who exasperate enmity and the perpetrators of the past as well. It is only a first draft. What do you think about perspectives of that direction of memory and identity’s construction?

I cannot but have the greatest sympathies for the transnational memory communities that you outline. They have in fact always consisted – we only need to think of Erasmus von Rotterdam and his circle of humanist friends across Europe who also forged a common memory community.

But let me say that very often it is not the external ‘other’ that plays a major role in political debates. We should not underestimate to what extent memory debates are still nationalized and in those national memory debates we find that the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ are both within one and the same nation. The political conflicts between the left and the right have been recurrent memory conflicts. Bismarck’s exclusion of the socialists as ‘fellows without fatherland’ from the German memory discourse was political move to isolate internal ‘others’. The Kulturkampf against Catholics is another such example. The fight of neoliberalism against the alleged social democratization of post-war politics in the West from the 1970s onwards (Thatcherism in Britain; Reaganism in the US) was also a memory war against ‘internal others’. Hence agonistic memory should be, in my view, above all, a resource for the left to counter a neo-liberal hegemony in contemporary Europe and work again towards an embedded form of capitalism, in the sense of Karl Polanyi.

  1. What are your academic plans?

I am currently finishing a book on the history of historiography since the 1970s in which I argue that various theories usually associated with narrativism, the linguistic turn and poststructuralism have led to the production of histories that are more self-reflexive about the identitarian claims of history writing and that have effectively undermined the very strong link between history writing and identity formation that was in place since the nineteenth century. The book will be published by Cambridge University Press next year and I hope that it can serve both as an introduction to recent trends in the history of historiography and an engaging essay on the relationship between history writing and identity formation.

After that I intend to work more on the history of deindustrialization in comparative transnational perspectives. Having now been in the Ruhr area of Germany for the past eight years, I am struck by the huge impact that deindustrialization had on the region, politically, socially, culturally and economically and also in terms of memory and identity. Comparing that experience with other experiences of deindustrialization seems to me a worthwhile exercise for it is in those deindustrializing areas that we also see a rise of the xenophobic and nationalist right and it is in these areas that agonistic interventions seem most necessary. A thorough understanding of how these regions developed and how they got to the point where they are now and what different futures they imagine seems to me the preconditions for such agonistic interventions.

Thanks a lot for your interview!

[1] Stefan Berger and Holger Nehring (eds), Social Movements in Global Historical Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.

[2] Stefan Berger (ed.), The Engaged Historian, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2020.

[3] Stefan Berger (ed.), Constructing Industrial Pasts, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2020.

[4] Stefan Berger, Ludger Pries and Manfred Wannoeffel (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Workers’ Participation at Plant Level, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.

[5] Stefan Berger, Sean Scalmer and Christian Wicke (eds), Social Movements and Memory, London: Routledge, 2020 (forthcoming).

[6] Hans Lauge Hansen, Anna Cento Bull, Wulf Kansteiner and Nina Parish, ‘War Museums as Agonistic Spaces: Possibilities, Opportunities and Constraints’, International Journal of Heritage Studies 25:6 (10/9/2018).

[7] Stefan Berger ‘National Historical Master Narratives and War Museums’, in: Thomas Maissen and Niels F. May (eds), New Nationalism in Historical Writing since the End of the Cold War, London: Routledge, 2020, forthcoming

[8] [accessed 21 Nov. 2017]

[9] ‘EP Bureau decides to set up a “House of European History”’, Press Release, Directorate for the Media, 20081216IPR44855.

[10] For the cultural turn of EU politics from the 1980s onwards see Chris Shore, Building Europe: the Cultural Politics of European Integration, London: Psychology Press, 2000; Yudhishthir Raj Isar, ‘Culture in EU External Relations: an Idea whose Time has Come?’, in: International Journal of Cultural Policy 21:4 (2015), pp. 494 – 508.

[11] Committee of Experts, Conceptual Basis for a House of European History, Brussels 2008, p. 5, see [accessed 24 Nov. 2017].

[12] On the Europeanization of national memory more generally see Aline Sierp, History, Memory and Trans-European Identity: Unifying Divisions, London: Routledge, 2014.

[13] Wolfram Kaiser and Richard McMahon, ‘Narrating European Integration: Transnational Actors and Stories’, in: National Identities 19:2 (2017), pp. 149 – 160.

[14] See also Stefan Berger, ‘Historical Writing and Civic Engagement: a Symbiotic Relationship’, in: Stefan Berger (ed.), The Engaged Historian: Perspectives on the Intersections of Politics, Activism and the Historical Profession, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2020, pp. 1 – 32.

[15] Wolfram Kaiser, ‘Limits of Cultural Engineering: Actors and Narratives in the European Parliament’s House of European History Project’. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 3 (2016), pp. 1-17; Wolfram Kaiser, Stefan Krankenhagen and Kerstin Poehls (eds), Exhibiting Europe in Museums: Transnational Networks, Collections, Narratives and Representations, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014.

[16] Stefan Berger with Christoph Conrad, The Past as History. National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.

[17] M. J. Prutsch, European historical memory: Policies, challenges and perspectives. [2013] Available at [accessed 22 Nov. 2017]

[18] Stefan Berger, ‚History and Forms of Collective Identity in Europe: Why Europe Cannot and Should Not be Built on History‘, in: Laura Rorato and Anna Saunders (eds), The Essence and the Margin. National Identities and Collective Memories in Contemporary European Culture, Amsterdam:Rodopi, 2009, pp. 21 – 36, especially p. 31.

[19] The concept of ‘futures past’ has been developed by Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, and in Koselleck’s wake by Lucian Hölscher, Die Entdeckung der Zukunft, Frankfurt: Fischer, 1999. It is, in my view, an extremely useful concept in developing agonistic memory regimes as it prevents the easy binaries and teleologies that are often in the background of cosmopolitan memory regimes.

[20] Stefan Berger, ‘Is the Memory of War in Contemporary Europe Enhancing Historical Dialogue?’, in: Elazar Barkan, Constantin Goschler and Jim Waller (eds), Historical Dialogue and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities, London: Routledge, 2020, forthcoming.


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