Of Paradoxes and Pitfalls, or: Does the Post-Migrant Society Need a Collective Memory?

Dr. Katrin Antweiler (RTG Contradiction Studies) | Rosa Jung

07/04/2023 3:45 pm

Newcastle University

Historical references have become part and parcel of modern political and public discourse while today’s ever-changing postmigrant societies pose new challenges to long-standing mnemonic practices, as has been vividly discussed in Germany over the past years. Since 2017, claims that newly arriving migrants should be educated in Holocaust history became louder, recently culminating in a revised curriculum for the mandatory integration courses. In our paper we will show how, based on the assumption that Holocaust remembrance can convey values of German society, this new curriculum aims at historical literacy for the purpose of igniting a sense of responsibility for society amongst the newcomers.Yet, so we will argue, the same memory politics also risk to exclude people from the “national culture” by neglecting responses to Holocaust history that might look different to the ones expected by mainstream society. By drawing from ongoing ethnographic research into different memory-educational programs for refugees in Germany, we seek to illustrate how paradoxes of plural democracy are negotiated on the basis of mnemonic practices and the construction of a collective memory more generally. Our aim is to shift the focus of current debates on German memory politics to the contradictions that underly some of the claims about its collective memory, especially the idea that a shared memory will create harmony amid a diverse society shaped by a multitude of memories.


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