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Dealing with Conflicting Visions of the Past: The Case of European Memory



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The aim of my dissertation is to understand and critically evaluate how the idea of European memory has been conceptualised by different actors at the European level and to develop a novel, pluralist conception.

Attempting to ground European integration and the attachment to Europe in historical narratives has become increasingly important for the EU since the loss of its main ideological “Other,” the Soviet Union. The projects adopted in this vein often have the explicit goal to address the “legitimacy problem” and the “democratic deficit” by promoting European identity. In the EU politics-academia nexus, where most of the related debate takes place, the buzzword “European memory” has become very fashionable in the last decade. The idea has been conceptualised in a variety of ways, but most of these are characterised by teleological frameworks and problem-solving thinking.

In my dissertation, I examine and critically evaluate how the idea of European memory has been conceptualised by different actors at the European level, and I develop a novel conception based on radical democratic theory. I analyse how the concept of European memory has been used in different European institutions and cultural projects (such as the European Parliament and the House of European History), and I critically reflect on these practices. In my pluralist vision of the European mythical space, conflicting visions of the past are not regarded as an anomaly that needs to be overcome by rational consensus or as an asset that can be harvested in order to bolster the legitimacy of certain political bodies. This vision takes difference to be an inevitable condition of social life and it argues that, instead of trying to resolve conflicting interpretations of the past, social difference should be embraced and the nature of conflict should be changed so that antagonistic relationships can become agonistic ones through dialogue and education. On the one hand, my dissertation contributes to the field of memory studies with a comprehensive pluralist approach to myth. On the other hand, I contribute to European studies, and more specifically to the academic discussion about European memory, when I contextualise this theory of myth in the contemporary European politics of the past.




Wydra, Harald
Bell, Duncan


Agonistic democracy, dialogue, mythscape, politics of memory, European memory, House of European History, agonistic memory


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge