Exploring Law, Memory and Identity...


Why memory matters?  What is its power? Film director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa once said, “It is the power of memory that gives rise to the power of imagination.” In other words, memory has always enjoyed a very complicated relation with the truth. It is not history, but is sometimes made of similar material. While history has facts and truth as goals, memory is content to rearrange the past. It privileges mythology. It imagines communities and invents traditions where they do not exist. The power of memory lies in its ability to create an identity. 

Contemporary studies generally agree that collective memory represents an essential component of national identity. Nations are imagined communities and memory helps people to imagine they are part of the same nation. Memory has a great cohesive force. It binds people together by providing for a group cohesion and solidarity and a common sense of belonging. Conversely, memory excludes. It serves nationalism in defining fictitious boundaries between the common We-identiy and otherness, and is very often used to justify illiberal turns, conflicts and wars.  In today’s Europe, however, nations are not any longer the the only depository of memories. The power of memory in the identity creation has been recognized also by the EU in its effort to create a transnational common European memory. It is  transmitted through common symbols, historical narratives, memorials commemorations, and EU soft legislation, and forms a crucial feature of the European cultural integration. 


Who decides what should remembered and what should be forgotten from national and/or transnational (European) memories? Should memory be an object of European and national legislation? When do memory laws conflict with the values of democracy? Are there optimal ways for the European Union, its member states and (potential) candidate countries to forge collective memory? Why these issues are crucial in legitimizing the present and shaping the future of the EU?

WE-UE tackles these questions by introducing new teaching activities: 




The aim is to provide students with basic concepts and notions relevant for the understanding of the European cultural integration: collective memory and identity; nationalism and nation-building; sites of memory, relationship between memory and history, politics of memory, memory laws, the ethics of memory and the right to the truth, and then focus specifically on the construction of European memory and identity by focusing particularly on the Europeanization of the memory of the Holocaust and Soviet communism. 



It focuses on national memory and identity construction through the selection of case studies which includes both the “old” EU member states and the “new” EU member states/candidate countries. The goal is to reflect and discuss competing memories of the Holocaust and Soviet communism that exist between Western and Eastern European countries. Particular emphasis is given to past and present problematic aspects of nationalistic manipulations of history by rising two issues: Is there a possibility to create a common European memory and identity? Which actions should be taken by the EU against divisive nationalistic interpretations of history in order to strengthen European identity?