Workshop 7- From national narratives to shared memories: Is a pan-European memory possible?

Are national narratives still relevant? How are we to think a pan-European memory and how to construct it? What part does the pan-European memory play in citizenship education? Can it help to prevent, manage, solve or even deescalate conflicts? And if so: What would be the framework conditions to ensure that? The workshop provoked a creative and sensible debate among participants and speakers about these core questions of the idea of creating a pan-European memory.

Start with your own story

Benedikt Widmaier, civic educator of the Haus am Maiberg - Akademie für politische und soziale Bildung, represented the example of strengthening a pan-European memory by civic education via youth exchanges to Slovenia. His approach: Everybody has to start with his own personal and family story. That would be an „entrance to European history“. Regarding the aim to achieve a pan-European memory by civic education, he claims: „Just a top-down project will never work.“

"Reservoir of European memory"

The European Parliament is facing a huge challenge by founding a European House of History in Brussels: A museum where the communication about pan-European memory or even a European identity should get a new home and platform. The defined goal is a common European self-awareness, multiperspectivity and support of citizenship education with this large pan-European dimension of history telling. „The reservoir of European memory“, as Andrea Mork pointed out, should be less a top-down than a bottom-up project - across all boarders. Therefore 28 curators of 14 countries collect exhibits from all over Europe.

Learning by irritating 

The house will be following a structure of three main topics. It starts with the Vienna congress at the beginning of the 19th century, followed by the interwar period in which communism and national socialism should be compared and closes with the memory of the Shoa. The learning effect: Creating an irritating moment for those who are used to a national way of thinking and, at the same time, getting to know more about a historical event - but from different perspectives. A chance for creating a European citizenship for the future, as Mork said. 

Recommendations for the commemoration 

While this was broadly agreed upon, the concept structure and approach behind it seemed discussable. Even if the initiative and founding of the European House of History intended being „a beginning“, the workshop participants had some recommendations for the concept: Especially the focus on the 20th century, as well as the approach of bringing together the storytelling of Eastern and Western Europe by the comparison of communism and fascism, was criticized. 

A kaleidoscope - not a dominant „master narrative“

A pan-European history or memory should have another strategy: It should focus on a transnational linkage between national narratives, on the history of the different migrating societies, Human Rights, colonialism and decolonization as well as the history of gender or racism in Europe should be told. A „mosaic - or kaleidoscope“ of national narratives should be rather joined as one pan-European memory instead of creating a „dominant master narrative“. To achieve that, it would be also important to experience Europe - especially for the younger generation - and to hear the stories that are not told.

Common ground for dialogue

A pan-European memory could support civic education in conflict regions - but civic educators are in the wrong place when there is still an open and civilian conflict. First, a common ground of a clear political situation needed, then the dialogue about commonalities and differences could be discussed between nations - as the participants conclude. One topic that could be started from could be the shared history of Human Rights.

Conference Day: 

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