Reimagining Political Identity and Ideology in Europe: Memory Politics and the Resurgence of Nationalism and Right-Wing Populism

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Contemporary Politics and Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2024) | Viewed by 7247

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Guest Editor
Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8P 5C2, Canada
Interests: migration; citizenship; nationalism; populism
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A new wave of memory politics has re-shaped European politics: the traditional narrative of European democracies of being built on the collective experience of war, fascism, Holocaust, and Soviet-style Communism is currently re-evaluated on different fronts. Most prominently, for many Central and East European countries, a more exclusionary, ethno-culturally framed nationalism has become a critical reference point in directing forms of collective identity and political ideologies. At the same time, right-wing populists from across Europe have embarked on questioning the long-established political lessons drawn from past authoritarian regimes and the anti-fascist foundations of Western democracies. In contrast, the European Union seeks to promote a European memory culture that, based on shared historical experiences and political principles, could transcend the divisiveness of a resurgent nationalism. This Special Issue will explore how historical narratives are mobilized in contemporary Europe, why they have become so prominent (and controversial) in public discourse, and what kind of political objectives are driving them.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Schmidtke
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • memory
  • nationalism
  • populism
  • past injustice
  • Europe
  • identity
  • fascism
  • communism

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

17 pages, 483 KiB  
Article
Corrosive Comparisons and the Memory Politics of “Saming”: Threat and Opportunity in the Age of Apology
by Matt James
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(3), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13030167 - 14 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1243
Abstract
This article contributes to the interdisciplinary fields of memory and historical justice studies by analyzing one, particularly troublesome kind of competitive comparison that sometimes happens in memory politics in the so-called age of apology. The article calls this kind of competitive comparison, “saming”. [...] Read more.
This article contributes to the interdisciplinary fields of memory and historical justice studies by analyzing one, particularly troublesome kind of competitive comparison that sometimes happens in memory politics in the so-called age of apology. The article calls this kind of competitive comparison, “saming”. Saming involves the attempt, via far-fetched or otherwise wrongheaded comparison, to exploit the recognition of some well-known case of historical injustice. Further, saming involves pursuing this comparison in ways that both trivialize the original injustice and undermine the framework from which the recognition of that injustice derives. The article develops its arguments and analysis by studying Budapest’s House of Terror museum and two Canadian redress campaigns, which sought historical recognition for the wartime internments of persons of Italian and Ukrainian ancestry, respectively. Saming is a recurrent problem, ubiquitous and probably inevitable in memory politics because the recognition of historical injustice brings with it unavoidable and indeed often valuable incentives to comparison. Thus, the overall aim of this article is to analyze the threat of saming in order to better defend the cause of comparison in introspective collective remembrance. Full article
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16 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
National or Multicultural? A Common Narrative about History in the Baltic States after 1991
by Beata Halicka
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(8), 439; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12080439 - 02 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1341
Abstract
In this article, I describe common narratives of history in postcommunist Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and explore the intersection between multiculturalism and memory politics. I argue that dealing with history is a challenge in these countries and can be seen as part of [...] Read more.
In this article, I describe common narratives of history in postcommunist Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and explore the intersection between multiculturalism and memory politics. I argue that dealing with history is a challenge in these countries and can be seen as part of a broader issue of memory politics in societies that have experienced trauma during the Nazi and Soviet eras. The hypothesis that I developed, based on my empirical analysis, is that it makes visible how a difficult process of negotiating competing memories can, under certain circumstances, lead to dialogical remembrance. The article also pays attention to unexpected events, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which gives a new dynamic to this process. The original contribution of this article is an analysis of historical narratives in three national museums, with a special focus on how these museums deal with the injustices and traumas experienced by different ethnic groups in the Baltic states. The final section of the article is devoted to the reaction of people in these countries to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, and how this relates to the politics of history created in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia after 1991. Full article
12 pages, 270 KiB  
Article
Mirroring Truths: How Liberal Democracies Are Challenging Their Foundational Narratives
by Carles Fernandez-Torne and Graeme Young
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(8), 438; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12080438 - 01 Aug 2023
Viewed by 763
Abstract
Long-established liberal democracies with histories of settler colonialism—from the United States and Canada to Australia and Scandinavia—are beginning to explore their histories of violence and dispossession. This, in many ways, is long overdue, but the desire to come to terms with past injustices [...] Read more.
Long-established liberal democracies with histories of settler colonialism—from the United States and Canada to Australia and Scandinavia—are beginning to explore their histories of violence and dispossession. This, in many ways, is long overdue, but the desire to come to terms with past injustices should not obscure the challenges that still stand in the way of any reasonable effort to do so. We argue that transitional justice can be applied to colonial history in liberal democracies, but there are major conceptual and practical obstacles that need to be overcome if this is to happen in meaningful ways. We explore three of these obstacles here that are particularly significant: the doctrine of intertemporal law, the unequal power balance between the Global North and the Global South, and national identity. If these are to be overcome, it is important to tie historical to present injustices and to incorporate, beyond violations of physical rights, violations of economic and social rights that are particularly relevant for understanding continuities between past and ongoing violations. These rights are commonly neglected even by states that recognize a broad set of liberal rights and have the capacity to ensure that they are realized, and represent a promising avenue for pursuing a truly inclusive, equitable, and universal understanding of justice. Full article
16 pages, 673 KiB  
Article
Competing Historical Narratives: Memory Politics, Identity, and Democracy in Germany and Poland
by Oliver Schmidtke
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(7), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12070391 - 04 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3276
Abstract
This article considers the growing rift between Western and Eastern Europe regarding the commemoration of Europe’s recent past and related historical narratives of nationhood that shape contemporary political preferences. More specifically, it investigates the connections between collective memory, national identities, and democratic cultures [...] Read more.
This article considers the growing rift between Western and Eastern Europe regarding the commemoration of Europe’s recent past and related historical narratives of nationhood that shape contemporary political preferences. More specifically, it investigates the connections between collective memory, national identities, and democratic cultures as they manifest themselves in Germany and Poland. With the help of an interpretative analysis focused on the discourse of political elites in both countries, the article identifies competing ways of interpreting 20th-century history and providing it with meaning for contemporary audiences. The national case studies of Germany and Poland present a contrasting logic in this respect: the promise of freedom and democracy in Poland is primarily narrated as the liberation from foreign rule and the desire for national independence. This narration is significantly built around a notion of popular sovereignty in which dissenting views of the heroic national past tend to be discredited and largely banned from public debate. In contrast, in Germany, the memory of fascism and the Holocaust has established a stronger rights-based approach to democracy in the liberal tradition and an openness to contesting historical narratives in the public domain. Full article
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