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Memory and History

Essays in Contemporary History


Lutz Niethammer

This book brings together eighteen English language essays on the fringes, overlap, and tensions of memory and history that the author has published over the last three decades. It is characteristic that the two longest essays in this volume, and the most recent one, are reflections on the author’s ambiguity vis-à-vis autobiographical Ego-histoire, on his role and experiences as a government advisor during the international negotiations on compensation for Nazi forced labor, and on the contexts of the essays of this book. The author was also instrumental in bringing Oral History to Germany and making it academically respectable. So the second largest part of this book displays some examples of his approaches to German ‘Erfahrungsgeschichte’ West and East, and to their roots in and beyond the Nazi period, being analytical and literary at the same time. The third major group of essays documents some of the author’s interventions into intellectual and conceptual history: with the examples of ‘Collective Identity’ and ‘Posthistoire’ he shows the merits of investigative ‘Geistesgeschichte’ contesting mainstream intellectual assumptions. With the method of Comparative Considerations he tries to specify the situation of German Labor after the ‘Third Reich’, the mythological potential of Soviet Special Camps in Germany after World War II, or the perspectives of the German ‘Sonderweg’ after 1990.


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List of first imprints, with some notes on contexts In this book I have collected articles that I contributed over the last decades to the fields of memory and history that have been translated into, or were origi- nally written in English. I thank Professor Anna Wolff-Poweska that she has ac- cepted this book as an early contribution into her new series edited in Poznan and designed to further the exchange among European historical and memory studies in various languages. From early on Europe has been a prime object of my curiosity, so I passed in between my provincial academic jobs in the Ruhr (post-)industrial agglomera- tion, and later in Eastern Germany’s most traditional cultural heart, something like a year each as fellow, visiting scholar or the like at St. Antony’s in Oxford (UK), at the Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris (France), at the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in the East and in the following year at the Wissen- schaftskolleg in the West of the two Berlins of the later Cold War, later I taught for a year at the University of Basle (Switzerland), and was a Jean Monnet Fel- low at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy). Around 1990 and at the end of the last century I had opportunities to respond as a host for others, when in 1989-93 I was founding director of the first advanced studies institute in cultural studies and the humanities in Germany, the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institute in the...

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