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Marcus Otto

This article analyzes how the fundamental challenge of decolonization has resonated in history textbooks published in France since the 1960s. It therefore contextualizes textbook knowledge within different areas of society and focuses on predominant discourses that influenced history textbooks' (post)colonial representations in the period examined. These discourses encompass the crisis of Western civilization, modernization, republican integration, and the postcolonial politics of memory. The author argues that history textbooks have thus become media, as well as objects of an emerging postcolonial politics of memory that involves intense conflicts over immigration and national identity and challenges France's (post)colonial legacy in general.

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Eckhardt Fuchs and Marcus Otto

Cultures of remembrance or memory cultures have constituted an interdisciplinary field of research since the 1990s. While this field has achieved a high level of internal differentiation, it generally views its remit as one that encompasses “all imaginable forms of conscious remembrance of historical events, personalities, and processes.” In contrast to this comprehensive and therefore rather vague definition of “culture of remembrance” or “memory culture”, we use the term “politics of memory” here and in what follows in a more specific sense, in order to emphasize “the moment at which the past is made functional use of in the service of present-day purposes, to the end of shaping an identity founded in history.” Viewing the issue in terms of discourse analysis, we may progress directly from this definition to identify and investigate politics of memory as a discourse of strategic resignifications of the past as formulated in history and implemented in light of contemporary identity politics. While the nation-state remains a central point of reference for the politics of memory, the field is by no means limited to official forms of the engagement of states with their past. In other words, it does not relate exclusively to the official character of a state’s policy on history. Instead, it also encompasses the strategic politics of memory and identity pursued by other stakeholders in a society, a politics that frequently, but not always, engages explicitly with state-generated and state-sanctioned memory politics. Thus, the politics of memory is currently unfolding as a discourse of ongoing, highly charged debate surrounding collective self-descriptions in modern, “culturally” multilayered, and heterogeneous societies, where self-descriptions draw on historical developments and events that are subject to conflict.