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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Postcolonial Collective Memory Cultures in Europe. A Fragmented, Divided and National-Bound Landscape: An Introduction


Memory is a broad term with many different meanings on a number of levels. Personal memories, for instance, give shape to individual identity and self-perception through the images one constructs of a self-experienced past. These personal memories never arise in a vacuum, but are formed in myriad interactions with the social environment and are closely connected to the memories of other people. This brings us to another type of memory, “collective memory”. Collective memories are those that exist within groups. They can be established from the bottom up, through everyday communication, or top-down, imposed by opinion- and policy-makers.

One scholar who writes about this is Aleida Assmann.1 She distinguishes between communicative and cultural collective memory. Communicative memories circulate in all kinds of groups, such as (sub)national groups, cultural groups, and (postcolonial) migrant groups. These memories are passed on from the bottom up through oral traditions and intangible heritage, and in this respect are often used for identity formation or for the cultivation of victimhood. Cultural memory is given formal shape by museums, monuments, statues, (sub)national holidays, street names and scientific or popular historiography. It is established top down through governments or through other official authorities that interfere in the process of determining what events should be anchored in collective memory and how they should be interpreted. Cultural memory is thus fixed, structured and stable. It is shaped so as to be applicable to subsequent generations of people.

An essential characteristic of both...

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