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Collective Traumas

Memories of War and Conflict in 20th-Century Europe


Edited By Conny Mithander, John Sundholm and Maria Holmgren Troy

Collective Traumas is about the traumatic European history of the 20 th century – war, genocide, dictatorship, ethnic cleansing – and how individuals, communities and nations have dealt with their dark past through remembrance, historiography and legal settlements. Memories, and especially collective memories, serve as foundations for national identities and are politically charged. Regardless whether memory is used to support or to challenge established ideologies, it is inevitably subject to political tensions. Consequently, memory, history and amnesia tend to be used and abused for different political and ideological purposes. From the perspectives of historical, literary and visual studies the essays focus on how the experiences of war and profound conflict have been represented and remembered in different national cultures and communities.
This volume is a vital contribution to memory studies and trauma theory.
Collective Traumas is a result of the multidisciplinary research project on Memory Culture that was initiated in 2002 at Karlstad University, Sweden. A previous publication with Peter Lang is Memory Work: The Theory and Practice of Memory (2005).


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Preface Bo Stråth 11


11 Preface Bo STRÅTH During the last 15-20 years the question of memory has got a prominent place on the agenda of the social sciences and humanities. One might even say that the period since the 1970s has seen a growing interest in the issue of collective memory. The 1970s was a period of great confusion and disorientation in the Western nation states. The expectations invested in them as managers of the economies and providers of welfare evaporated in the 1970s with the breakdown of the international order established after 1945 (the dollar collapse, the oil price shock and the recurrence of mass unemployment, for instance). These expectations had been built up in a remarkably short time after the Second World War, where the bonanza years of the 1950s and the 1960s were seen as the standard with promises of an ever better future. From the 1970s onwards, the answer to the question of who we are was no longer as self-evident as it had been during the brief period of belief in security and progress. The concept of identity became a key concept in academic reflection and political debate, although the term had not played a major role until then. It was a concept used in ancient Greek philosophy and mathe- matics and did hardly play any role outside this field. In the 1880s the concept was incorporated in psychoanalytical theory. However, it remained a term in a rather restricted sphere until the 1970s. In 1973 the European...

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