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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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Agnieszka Holland’s Europa, Europa as a Critical Voice in the Polish Debate on the Second World War (Małgorzata Pakier) 143


143 Agnieszka Holland’s Europa, Europa as a Critical Voice in the Polish Debate on the Second World War1 Małgorzata PAKIER Collective amnesia, as Ernest Renan observed more than a century ago, is an important aspect of building a community: “[...] l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses. …” (qtd. in Anderson 199). The construction of collective memory is inseparably linked with what is excluded and what remains unmentioned in the collective images and commemorations of past events. In particular, shameful and tragic historical events – those traumatic moments in national history which do not fit in the collective self-perception and are too difficult and too painful to deal with – are often excluded from national narratives. However, the paradoxical nature of traumatic events – whether on the individual level or in national experience – is that they can be neither forgotten nor remembered. As Joanna Michlic and Antony Polonsky metaphorically observed while writing on the Polish post-war response to the extermination of Polish Jews and on the latest national debate on the pogrom in Jedwabne,2 “the traumatic past [...] exists within us like a foreign body of which we cannot rid ourselves” (Polonsky and Michlic 3). The elements repressed or excluded from national narratives have become objects of scholarly interest in parallel with the so-called linguistic turn in historiography, which stressed the narrative process of constructing the object of examination, and with the growing popularity 1 I want to...

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