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Bad Custom

The Meanings and Uses of a Legal Concept in Premodern Europe

Anthony Perron

The place and function of custom as a species of law—distinguished from custom as simply polite manners or cherished cultural traditions—has long been a source of research and debate among legal theorists and historians. One school of thought, reflecting the authority of written statute in modern jurisprudence, has relegated custom in a juridical sense to “primitive” societies, whereas proper law belongs to a world of state sovereignty. Other scholars have revisited the continuing validity of custom, including a trenchant body of work on the use (and manipulation) of custom in modern colonial regimes. At the same time, some have seen benefits in the acknowledgment of custom as a source of norms. A 2006 collection of articles, for instance, explored ways in which customary law might serve as a better foundation for the sustainable development of natural resources. As David Bederman has written, “Custom can be a signal strength for any legal system—preliterate or literate, primitive or modern.”

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Introduction

Using Popular Culture to Trace and Assess Political Change

Niko Switek

The German federal election in September 2021 marked a significant transformation for German politics. As Chancellor Angela Merkel decided not to run again, the election spelled the end of her 16-year tenure; it also signaled a major shift in the German party system. The right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Bundestag again after their first entry in 2017, implying—for the first time since 1949—the establishment and sustained parliamentary presence of a party on the national level to the (far-)right of the Christian Democrats. The challenges facing the new parliament and government after the election are paramount. The climate crisis looms as large as ever. With the exception of the AfD, all German parties (and a distinct majority of voters) see this as the most pressing issue to tackle. However, the scope of action will be limited as the extensive state debt accumulated through covid-19 relief measures exerts pressure on the specific German model of social market economy. Finally, the international environment has seen drastic changes in the last years: While the election of u.s. President Joe Biden as successor to Donald Trump implies a return to normal for transatlantic relations, the uk exit from the eu shifts the balance between the remaining member states. After the Euro, refugee, and pandemic crises, European solidarity is strained, complicating Germany's role as the eu's “reluctant hegemon” or “gentle giant.” This reluctance or restraint connotes far more than a strategic policy choice: it is deeply rooted in the German history of the twentieth century that witnessed the cruelty and atrocities of the Nazi regime.

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Lauren Schwartz

Abstract

How, in the aftermath of National Socialism and World War II, was the memory landscape of Munich and Bavaria denazified under the Office of the Military Government of the United States? Supplementing existing cultural approaches and scholarship on denazification in Bavaria, this article considers the execution of Allied Control Council Directive Number 30 by the American occupation government (omgus) in Bavaria, in conjunction with appropriated native Bavarian bureaucracies and bureaucrats, to inventory and assess the built environment in order to register militaristic or Nazi monuments and prioritize their removal or modification. The limitations of the project to renew or restore the monument landscape confront in turn the limitations on the “bureaucratic manufacture of memory” in the modification of individual memory.

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Introduction

When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present

Antoinette Burton

Abstract

This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.

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Introduction

A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France

Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

France is an overwhelmingly majority-White nation. Yet the French majority is reluctant to identify as White, and French social science has tended to eschew Whiteness as an object of inquiry. Inspired by critical race theory and critical Whiteness studies, this interdisciplinary special issue offers a new look at White identities in France. It does so not to recenter Whiteness by giving it prominence, but to expose and critique White dominance. This introduction examines the global and local dimensions of Whiteness, before identifying three salient dimensions of its French version: the ideology of the race-blind universalist republic; the past and present practice of French colonialism, slavery, and rule across overseas territories; and the racialization of people of Muslim or North African backgrounds as non-White.

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Memories of Migration

Commemoration, Contestation, and Migrant Integration in the United Kingdom and Germany

Barbara Laubenthal and Kevin Myers

Abstract

Based on key concepts of memory studies, this article investigates how immigration is remembered in two different societies: the United Kingdom and Germany. Starting from the assumption that social remembering has the potential to encourage the integration of migrants, we analyze in several case studies how civil society organizations and government actors remember historical immigration processes and how the immigrant past is reflected in popular culture. Our analysis shows that both countries have several factors in common with regard to the role of immigration in collective memory. A common feature is the marginal status accorded to migration and, when it is remembered, the highly restricted role offered to immigrants. However, our studies also reveal that memory can become an important mode for the integration of migrants if it is used as a form of political activism and if organizations proactively use the past to make demands for the incorporation of immigrants.

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The Whiteness of French Food

Law, Race, and Eating Culture in France

Mathilde Cohen

Abstract

Food is fundamental to French identity. So too is the denial of structural racism and racial identity. Both tenets are central to the nation's self-definition, making them all the more important to think about together. This article purports to identify and critique a form of “French food Whiteness” (blanchité alimentaire), that is, the use of food and eating practices to reify and reinforce Whiteness as the dominant racial identity. To do so, it develops four case studies of how law elevates a fiction of homogenous French/White food as superior and normative at the expense of alternative ways of eating and their eaters—the law of geographical indications, school lunches, citizenship, and cultural heritage.

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Nikolaos Mavropoulos

Abstract

In the wake of Italy's unification, the country's expansionist designs were aimed, as expected, toward the opposite shore of the Mediterranean. The barrage of developments that took place in this strategic area would shape the country's future alliances and colonial policies. The fear of French aggression on the coast of North Africa drove officials in Rome to the camp of the Central Powers, a diplomatic move of great importance for Europe's evolution prior to World War I. The disturbance of the Mediterranean balance of power, when France occupied Tunisia and Britain held Cyprus and Egypt, the inability to find a colony in proximity to Italy, and a series of diplomatic defeats led Roman officials to look to the Red Sea and to provoke war with the Ethiopian Empire.

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Introduction

Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission

Elizabeth C. Macknight

This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.

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Introduction

Innocence and the Politics of Memory

Jonathan Bach and Benjamin Nienass

Innocence is central to German memory politics; indeed, one can say that the German memory landscape is saturated with claims of innocence. The Great War is commonly portrayed as a loss of innocence, while the Nazis sought, in their way, to reclaim that innocence by proclaiming Germany as the innocent victim. After World War II, denazification and courts established administrative and legal boundaries within which claims of innocence could be formulated and adjudicated, while the “zero hour” and “economic miracle” established a basis for a different form of reclaiming innocence, one roundly critiqued by Theodor W. Adorno in his essay “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?” In the 1980s, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's famous pronouncement of the “grace [Gnade] of a late birth” (also translatable as “mercy,” “pardon,” or “blessing”) became the touchstone for a resurgence of war children's (Kriegskinder) memory. In the 1990s, the myth of the Wehrmacht as largely innocent of atrocities was publicly challenged. Today, right-wing critiques that cast Holocaust remembrance as a politics of shame draw upon tropes of innocence, of German air war victims and post-war generations, while right-wing images of migrants are cast in classic forms of threats to the purity of the “national body” (Volkskörper). The quickening pace of contemporary debates over Germany's colonial past pointedly questions the innocence of today's beneficiaries of colonialism, drawing attention to the borders and contours of implication.