Terrorscapes and Competing Memories: The Politics of Heritage and Memory

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


Terrorscapes and Competing Memories: The Politics of Heritage and Memory
Prof. Rob van der Laarse
University of Amsterdam & VU University Amsterdam

From the Second World War onwards European political integration is based on the assumption of a common
cultural heritage and memory of the Holocaust. Yet does such a mutual heritage and collective memory really exist? Notwithstanding the common roots of European culture, Europe’s nations share most of all a history of conflict and war. Nonetheless, the devastating horrors of two World Wars have for the last six decades stimulated a unique process of unification. Millions of fallen soldiers, the mass slaughter of European civilians, and the destruction of the Jews have determined, by an act of negation, the postwar image of Europe’s humanist culture
and identity. Politics of heritage and memory, and of forgetting and silencing, play a crucial role in this process.
Still, I will argue that after the Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) the assumption of the Holocaust as a common European experience, and hence as a keystone of Europe’s postwar identity, raises some critical objections. The Holocaust paradigm is challenged in many of the EU’s former communist, new member states by a ‘double genocide’ or ‘occupation paradigm’, whereas the EU’s mnemonic ‘imperialism’ is challenged by the rise of populist nationalism, resulting in a deep incompatibility of opinions between and among Western and Eastern
European communities about the impact, interpretation and meaning of the hundreds of twentieth century terrorscapes of conflict and war in Europe and beyond. These competing memories will ask for completely new interpretations, integrating (and confronting) very different - traumatic, neglected, mediatized, mythologized, and
politicized - experiences, and a fundamental rethinking of postwar politics of heritage and memory.

Rob van der Laarse studied history and anthropology at the University of Amsterdam where he graduated cum laude and obtained his PhD cum laude in humanities (1989). His published dissertation on the crucial role of religion in the modernization and symbolic construction of political communities in the 19th C. Netherlands
was awarded a Praemium Erasmianum Study Prize (1990). He held positions at different universities in history, media and cultural studies, and visiting scholarships in Florence and Salford, was founding director of heritage studies at the UvA (2004-2010), and currently teaches at UvA's cultural sciences department and the art and
culture department of VU University Amsterdam, where he holds the Westerbork chair of War Heritage and Memory. In 2012-2013 he was fellow and theme group leader at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar, where he gave the Opening of the Academic Year Lecture. Van der Laarse is also founding
member of the Terrorscapes research group, Director Research Cluster Heritage & Memory (with Ihab Saloul), Coordinator Research Domain “Conflict” (with Ihab Saloul & Frank van Vree) at University of Amsterdam, and Theme Leader European Culture and Identity VU/UVA Research School Access Europe in cooperation with Joep
Period29 Oct 2013
Event titleCompeting Memories, 4-days international conference, 29 Okt-1 Nov. 2013
Event typeConference