nl en

Politics of Memory


Admission requirements

Participation in the seminar is only permitted if the propaedeutic phase has been passed (60 EC).


The process of constructing, 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 influence and control collective memories? How does selection of memory and interpretation of the past relate to power? This course will delve into these questions and the politics of memory, more generally. The students will discuss the role of different actors in designing the narratives, the diversity of perspectives in interpretations of the past. 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. Students will discover how these representations and remembrance affect collective memories.. The course will explore 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. Additionally, students will investigate bottom-up efforts to revise contested narratives of the past.
The course will introduce students to concepts and theories about collective and cultural memory, heritage, narratives and perspectives, nationalism, colonialism and totalitarianism. Furthermore, the students will analyze in practice 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 cinema, literature, and museums. Course discussions engage students in analyzing memory narratives through a diversity of cases and readings. International relations and organisations together with internal politics and academic research provide a wide variety of cases for course debates: from protection and restitution of cultural heritage to promoting particular viewpoints and discrimination of others to even argumentation for interstate violence. Students will learn how to apply in their own research a range of methods and approaches of memory studies.

Course objectives

Objective 1: Students will acquire knowledge of the main theories and concepts of the study of collective and cultural memory, and politics. They will learn the analytical approaches to 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

Participation (20%)
Midterm assignments (2) (total 30%)
Final assignment (50%)
It is possible to have a re-take of the final assignment.

Reading list

No books are required to be purchased for this course. All course literature is available online through the University library.
The syllabus and the readings will be accessible on Brightspace.

Autry, R. (2017). Desegregating the Past. The Public Life of Memory in the United States and South Africa. New York: Columbia University Press.

Drozdzewski, D., & Birdsall, C. (2018). Doing memory research : New methods and approaches / Danielle Drozdzewski , Carolyn Birdsall. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan US.

De Cesari, C., Kaya, A. (2020). European memory in populism : Representations of self and other (Critical heritages of Europe).
De Cesari, C., Rigney, A. (2014). Transnational memory : Circulation, articulation, scales (Media and cultural memory ; Volume 19).
Erll, A., Nünning, A., & Young, S. (2008). Cultural memory studies an international and interdisciplinary handbook. Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Keightley, Emily, & Pickering, Michael. (2013). Research Methods for Memory Studies (Research methods for the arts and humanities). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Phillips, K. R. (2004). Framing Public Memory. Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press (Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Critique).


See 'Practical Information


See 'MyTimetable'