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European Memory: Tangles of Memory, Borders, and Race

As part of the Lecture Series New Frontiers in Memory Studies, Chiara de Cesari (University of Amsterdam) talked about “European Memory: Tangles of Memory, Borders, and Race” in Frankfurt on Tuesday, 03rd June 2014.


Memories play a crucial role in the making of spatial imaginaries and in shaping the common sense, taking-for-granted boundaries of the community we feel we belong to. In this talk, I will discuss some preliminary results of my fieldwork on the making of a new European memory and on the kinds of ‘European’ spaces that are imagined through it. In particular, I will discuss two relatively new museums of Europe, both reconverted collections of ethnology and folklore, namely, Berlin’s Museum of European Cultures and the MUCEM, Marseille’s Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, which was inaugurated as the hallmark event of Marseille European Capital of Culture 2013.

My talk will discuss the ways in which these two museums narrate ‘Europe’ (and its relationship to ‘other’ spaces), and the tensions, contradictions and gaps that mark these narratives. I will also investigate the ways in which these stories came to be, and the contested and difficult histories of the making of these museums. Rather than focusing on identity, I have chosen instead to analyse these narratives taking a spatial and geographical lens and borders and spatial imaginaries as my key analytical concepts so as to foreground issues of race, which have long been neglected in memory studies.