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Interdisciplinary Symposium on 'European Memories'

Date: 26 June - 1 July 2008 Time: 26. June 2008 - 28 June 2008

Breaking Silence or Making a Clean Break?

Sites and Modes of Commemoration


26, 27, 28 June 2008


Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue

1190 Vienna, Armbrustergasse 15


coming to terms with europe'S TRAUMATIC PAST -


curated by Ruth Wodak

All societies have experienced traumatic events in their past, be it war and war crimes, revolution, torture, mass killings, rape etc. Sometimes, taboos surround such events in the public sphere; frequently, narratives are constructed which mystify the participation in war crimes or other crimes, and reformulate the interpretation of historical facts and events according to the interests of specific political actors or groups. Such narratives are (re)produced through films, documentaries, political speeches and schoolbooks; moreover, they are also transferred into the private spheres of families and peer-groups. Various groups in the respective society compete for THE ONE and ONLY narrative which should be hegemonic. The latter then also have a strong impact on the discursive construction of national identities and draw on a whole range of collective and individual memories. Collective memory, thus, cannot be equated with history, but is linked to it and has multiple effects on the future. Pennebaker and Banasik summarise these processes succinctly: 'History defines us just as we define history. As our identities and cultures evolve over time, we tacitly reconstruct our histories. By the same token, these new collectively defined historical memories help to provide identities for succeeding generations.'

The founding myths and the imaginaries on which every day recollections as well as collective experiences draw, form a part of the official past of every nation state. The construction of national identities always necessarily draws on narratives which relate the past, present and future in specific ways.

The symposium 'Breaking Silence or Making a Clean Break? Sites and Modes of Commemoration' assembles prominent international scholars from multiple disciplines (History, Political Sciences, Sociology, Rhetoric, Discourse Studies, German Studies, Media Studies, and Literary Studies) who are all concerned with investigating 'the Politics of the Past' in European nation states (Vergangenheitspolitik) from various perspectives and by applying different theoretical and methodological approaches. More specifically, all participants attempt to provide first answers to the overarching questions, such as: how should one deal with 'traumatic' pasts which are prevalent in every society? How should one deal with perpetrators and victims? Should one focus on a common future and 'forget the past'? Can a 'clean break' be achieved? And which are the functions of such a 'clean break'? Can we learn from the experiences from other cultures and non-European countries? And if silence occurs, what are the consequences, for perpetrators, victims, and the entire society? We are aware that these difficult and complex questions will not be answered once and for all; but we do hope that this symposium will contribute to future debates.

Ruth Wodak, Vienna/Lancaster, sociolinguist and discourse analyst.


Please indicate on which days you will be attending:

Tel.: 318 82 60/20

Fax: 318 82 60/10



Thursday, June 26

19.00: Welcome Ruth Wodak, Lancaster University, United Kingdom

19.15: On Individual Initiative; Keynote by Gitta Sereny, journalist and writer, United Kingdom

20.00: Reception (drinks)

Friday, June 27

09.30: A Battleground of Memory and Justice. Chile since the 1973 Coup; Keynote by David Sugarman, Lancaster University,

United Kingdom


10.30: Historical Scholarship, Politics of the Public Past, and (Semi-) Private Memory; Mitchell Ash, University of Vienna,


10.50: Considering the Violence of Voicelessness: Censorship and Self-Censorship Related to the South African TRC Process;

Christine Anthonissen, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

11.10: Discussion

11.40: Coffee break

12.00: Creating Acceptable Meanings for the Present: Some Discourse Analytic Reflections on Verbal Commemorative

Practices, Titus Ensink, University of Groningen, Netherlands

12.20: Transforming the Holocaust. Remarks after the Beginning of the 21st Century; Dirk Rupnow, University of Vienna,


12.40: Discussion


15.00: Justice, Truth, or Internal Peace: Advantages and Disadvantages of Three Different Options Anton Pelinka, Central

European University, Hungary

15.20: Clean Break and Usable History. The Hungarian Debate of the Historians; Andras Kovács, Central European University,


16.00: Discussion

16.30: Coffee break

17.00: Israel's Prenatal Memory: Born in 1948 - Traumatized in 1938; Moshe Zimmermann, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,


17.20: Spoken Silence -Bridging Breaks. The Discursive Construction of Historical Continuities and Turning Points in Austrian

Commemorative Speeches; Martin Reisigl, University of Vienna, Austria

17.40: Discussion

Saturday, June 28

Panel 3: Collective and Individual Trauma: Confronting War Crimes

09.30: Constructing Memories of War. The Case of Poland; Jan Gross, Princeton University, USA

09.50: Spain between Amnesia and Political Instrumentalization of the Recent Past; Walther Bernecker, University of

Erlangen, Germany

10.10: The Legacy of the Holocaust and Scandinavian Small-State Foreign Policy; Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke, Danish

Institute for International Studies, Denmark

10.30: Discussion

11.10: Coffee Break

11.30: Confronting War Crimes of the "Wehrmacht"; Walter Manoschek, University of Vienna, Austria

11.50: Images of the "Other" and Danish Politics of the Past: Antisemitism, Xenophobia, and the Dream of Cultural and Ethnic

Homogeneity; Thorsten Wagner, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

12.10: From Collective Violence to a Common Future: Four Models of Dealing with a Traumatic Past; Aleida Assmann,

University of Konstanz, Germany

12.30: Discussion

Melitta Campostrini Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue Armbrustergasse 15 A-1190 Vienna tel. ++43 1 3188260/11 fax: ++43 1 3188260/10 e-mail:

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Bo Strath (external), David Sugarman, Ruth Wodak

Associated projects: Discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press, 1996-2006,EMEDIATE: Media and Ethics of the European Public Sphere: From the Treaty of Rome to the 'War on Terror'

Organising departments and research centres: Difference and diversity, Discourse-Politics-Identity, Dynamics of Memories, Institute for Advanced Studies, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Antisemitism, Diaspora, Discourse analysis, Interdisciplinary, International human rights law, Memorialisation, Memory, Morality, Race and racism, Racialisation, Totalitarianism, Twentieth century history, Twenty-first century, War


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