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Politics of Memory (Leiden)


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements or restrictions. Students are expected to respect others and to be open to different opinions.


The process of shaping and reshaping memories is a political matter, especially in cases of oppressive political regimes. This process is essential for establishing new identities and political legitimacy. Why is collective memory so important, and what are the tools to control collective memories? How does selective memory relate to power? What implications could remembering and forgetting have on societies in transition? This course will delve into these questions and the politics of memory, more generally. It will focus on how contentious historical episodes - colonialism, slavery, the Second World War, (post)communism, the Cold War, and others - are remembered and represented in collective memories. The course will discuss the links between memory and the state, nationalism and totalitarianism, as well as the extent to which political regimes can control historical narratives and representations.
The course will introduce students to concepts such as collective memory, nationalism, colonialism and totalitarianism. Furthermore, the students will analyze real-world collective representations of issues such as post-colonialism, slavery, Holocaust, Cold war, and post-communism. They will discuss the use and effects of various tools of collective memory-shaping, including the state education system, mass media and cultural artifacts such as films, and museums.

Course objectives

Objective 1: Students will acquire knowledge of the main theories and concepts of the study of collective memory, nationalism, and politics. They will learn the analytical approaches for analyzing practices of remembrance in democratic and oppressive political regimes.
Objective 2: Students will develop and improve their critical thinking and debating skills by engaging in discussions and analyses of a variety of empirical cases of political interventions in collective memory, based on multiple sources, including different types of media, such as text, video, objects, images, tables and graphs.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours
Seminars: 28 hours
Studying the literature: 80 hours
Written assignment: 110 hours

Assessment method

Assessment Method
Participation (20%)
Midterm assignments (2) (total 30%)
Final assignment (50%)

It is possible to have a re-take of the final assignment.


Brightspace is used mainly for organizational purposes. Available papers will be uploaded there.

Reading list

No books are required to be purchased for this course. All readings will be made available soon. The syllabus and the readings for the first class will be accessible on Blackboard.


See general information on tab 'Year 3'.



Dr. Radostina Sharenkova-Toshkova