Konrad Hugo Jarausch, Thomas Lindenberger, Annelie Ramsbrock, eds. Conflicted Memories: Europeanizing Contemporary Histories. Studies in Contemporary European History Series. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. xii + 293 pp. Illustrations. $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84545-284-1.
Reviewed by Shannon Nagy (Department of History, University of Texas at Austin)
Published on H-German (November, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
Reconceptualizing Contemporary European Historiography
Contemporary European history has predominantly focused on national perspectives rather than transnational histories and has largely neglected the question and development of a common memory culture. With changing notions of space, borders, and ideologies, the collapse of the Soviet Union, migration, and the creation of organizations such as the United Nations and European Union, Europe has become a site in which one needs to re-evaluate and reconceptualize the ways in which European history is studied, written, and viewed in today's historiography. Konrad Jarausch, Thomas Lindenberger, and other contributors attempt to tackle precisely these issues in Conflicted Memories. Conflicted Memories brings together an array of scholars' perspectives and approaches on how to rework and reframe traditional histories in order to foster and serve as the foundation for future political and economic integration in Europe.
In their introduction, Jarausch and Lindenberger stress the importance of scholars' roles in the process of European integration and their impact on European contemporary history. Jarausch and Lindenberger outline the inadequacies of European historiography and European views of history, and provide suggestions as to how one can approach European history outside the context of the nation-state. They view Europe as a problematic site of a "patchwork of memories" in which no common European memory culture or common European historical consciousness exists (p. 4). Jarausch and Lindenberger argue for an adoption of plurality and the creation of an integrated memory that will help historians grapple with the merging of national identities and the shifting definitions and significance of Europe at different points in history. Past histories of Europe have been able to provide only piecemeal representations of the development of the continent as a whole, calling for more complex interpretations of Europe that transcend national boundaries, stress the rhetoric of integration, and offer comparative readings from within and without Europe. Therefore, the contributors to this volume attempt to define the nebulous term "contemporary European history" and provide a critical framework for dealing with these issues and a comprehensive lens onto the direction in which European historiography is shifting and how far it still needs to go.
The volume is divided into four sections: "Contested Memories," "Multiple Conflicts," "Transnational Interactions," and "Unfinished Political Processes." Although each section's essays fit into the section's overall theme, the essays themselves do not always complement each other or offer textual continuity; however, the essay's subjects are diverse enough to keep the reader engaged while they paint a comprehensive picture of each section's theme.
The first and second sections consider Europe as a site of conflict. "Contested Memories" focuses on conflicted memories by examining the relationship between diverging memories and the political use of history. Henry Rousso examines the politics of memory and why the Holocaust continues to be a central tenet of European memory culture despite Europe's post-World War II state of stability, prosperity, and peace. Rousso calls for a re-examination of European historiography by taking into account the political, geographical, economic, and cultural changes in Europe such as the rise and fall of communism and migration after 1945. In Dragoş Petrescus's examination of postcommunist Romania, he shows that Nicolae Ceauşescu's regime hindered the construction of a critical national identity in Romania and that the practice of creating an objective historical narrative still challenges the authors of many nation-states' histories. Stefan Berger's essay on the development of national history writing in Europe from the mid-nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century briefly outlines the trajectory of national history after World War II. He argues that national histories were essential to providing nations with a sense of community, national identity, a functional past, and continuity with the past, resulting in national histories stressing homogenization but paradoxically resulting in diversity and the birth of counter-narratives. The section concludes with Pieter Lagrou's essay on contemporary historical writing. Lagrou argues that critical historiographical approaches towards World War II and the Holocaust forced historians to create insular histories that focused on institutions and nation-states.
The second section of the volume focuses on Europe's history as a continent engaged in constant conflict and considers genocides, world wars, religious clashes, and class struggle as integral characteristics of European identity. John Horne's essay on twentieth-century conflict and war addresses the unstable terms "European" and "contemporary" and questions what constitutes a "European conflict." Horne calls for a transnational view of war and conflict and questions whether contemporary European history can exist without mention of conflict. Kiran Klaus Patel's essay places the history of National Socialism in a transnational context and examines a broader historical period ranging from 1914 until 1945 rather than the traditional 1939 to 1945. Patel argues that a transnational approach allows one to treat National Socialism as a larger European issue and in turn interpret it from a European perspective. Alfred Rieber's essay asserts that the origins of the Cold War in Eurasia may be traced to a long durée of conflicts in the region between Asia and Europe. This contribution expands the scope of Cold War and international studies and introduces two new dimensions into the Cold War debate, that of imperial expansion and the relationship between colonized populations and ruling authorities and the struggle over the Eurasian borderlands.
Section 3 centers on "European" transnational relationships and strives to recapture and reconstruct intellectual, cultural, and economic transnational exchanges in Europe. Thomas Mergel's study presents tourism in Europe after the Second World War as a vehicle for promoting social space, communication, and transnational interactions and exchanges. By approaching transnationalism from the perspective of tourism, Mergel argues that mass tourism leads to tourists not only experiencing other countries and cultures but simultaneously forces nations to preserve national traditions, identity, and culture. She finds that by visiting other places, tourists engage in a process of "othering" that allows them not only to differentiate themselves from others but also to define their own culture and identity. Karen Schönwälder examines migration within Europe and to other countries outside of Europe and calls for future histories of Europe to include the integral--but often neglected--subject of migration. Marsha Seifert's essay explores the ways in which Europe has responded to cultural Americanization of audiovisual space while Andre Steiner articulates how to approach transnational history from an economic perspective. Steiner examines the Europeanization of economic life and the European Economic Community before 1973 to determine what role integration played in economic growth.
The volume's fourth section shifts the focus to Europe's role in the international community, calling for less emphasis on supranational studies and more on international integration. Helmut Kaelble traces the development of a European civil society in the context of the EU and illuminates the ways in which European civil society and national civil societies differ. He shows that the development of European civil society is largely due to integration and its effects and that this civil society is the bedrock of development of a larger, European public sphere. Örjan Appelqvist examines the liberal political endeavors of a group of exiled liberal-socialists in Sweden who formed the International Group of Democratic Socialists after the Second World War. Igor Caşu undertakes a study on "Re-Europeanization" in the Republic of Moldova and its struggle to assert itself regionally; he treats its internal difficulties in constructing a national identity independent of Soviet influence and one that includes both its Romanian and Russian population. Michael Geyer concludes the volume with a postscript addressing the notion that in order for European historiography to move forward, scholars need to embrace the ambiguous and problematic definition of Europe and write histories that address and encompass all that is Europe, both negative and positive. He suggests that preconceived notions of Europe as the epitome of Gemeinschaft and a product of transnational relations result in Europe being hard to "find" and define. Therefore, he emphasizes that we continue to consider Europe as a conflictual space and as an entity whose parts cannot be dissected and examined exclusively but instead must be considered as intertwined and parts of a larger whole.
Rather than presenting actual uses of their proposed techniques of history, the authors in this collection merely offer new approaches to the study of history and raise questions about how to conduct history from a transnational perspective, in the wake of rapid trends in globalization.
This approach makes for an excellent tool for historians but proves difficult and dry reading for non-experts. However, overall this volume critically examines the historiography of integration and the foundations of the constantly evolving European community. It successfully provides its readers with a refreshing framework in which European history can be studied and is highly recommended for graduate students and scholars of contemporary European history.
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Shannon Nagy. Review of Jarausch, Konrad Hugo; Lindenberger, Thomas; Ramsbrock, Annelie, eds., Conflicted Memories: Europeanizing Contemporary Histories.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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