What is the Center for Commemorative Culture?

There is no present without commemoration of the past

The term commemorative culture has become established to describe the presence of the past. It is today omnipresent in scholarly as well as public historical discourse, yet its inflationary usage makes the term appear almost arbitrary and difficult to define. Commemorative culture serves to label the construction of social self-conceptions while also referring to individual and collective psychological processes. Political programs and everyday practices often operate under the term commemorative culture, which serves to negotiate, consolidate, or complicate hegemonic patterns of interpretation and social questions of power. Commemorative cultures are therefore often contested and always polyphonic.

The Centre for Commemorative Culture (CCC) takes this complexity seriously, in all its iterations and dimensions

The CCC is conceived of as a scholarly and discursive forum for engagements with and critical reflections of commemorative cultures both past and present. The term “commemorative culture” included in the center’s name is deliberately understood in heuristically broad terms – and pragmatically as a collective singular noun. This serves to highlight that the CCC does not only examine specific commemorative practices and discourses, but also focuses on the conceptual field of “commemorative culture” itself. It moreover serves as a point of departure and a source of inspiration for critical engagements with the manifold aesthetic, political, and cognitive as well as commercial, pop-cultural, performative, and visual/medial facets of the public engagement with history.

Inter- and Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Forms, Conditions, Possibilities, and Effects of Historical Commemoration

The CCC adopts inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives to focus on the forms, conditions, possibilities, and effects of historical commemoration, examining negotiation processes, modes of representation, and practices of engaging with memory and history. This is undertaken from a dual perspective: a systematic examination of commemorative cultures as an object of research on the one hand and the ‘self-conscious making’ of history in public spaces on the other. The center thereby carves out a point of intersection in multiple forms between practice and theory in commemorative cultures, allowing for actors to interact at eye-level.

The CCC aims moreover to promote a close exchange between academic research on commemorative cultures and actors working on public commemoration and history, to inspire experimental approaches, and thereby to critically reflect on and actively co-create social processes of commemoration. To this end, the CCC aims to foster close connections between research, teaching, and social practice. It functions organizationally as a platform for researchers from various disciplines as well as practitioners. Within the university, it is attached thematically and methodologically to the MA course “Public History and Cultural Dissemination” while also offering opportunities to collaborate with other courses in the humanities, cultural studies, and social sciences.

A chronological focal point is commemorative culture relating to National Socialism and the Holocaust. However, the CCC is not limited to this focus and also addresses other historical eras. The center’s activities focus on commemorative cultures from a long-term historical perspective while also integrating current social debates and controversies such as engagements with the legacy of colonialism in Western societies.

The Center for Commemorative Culture is understood

  • as a potential space for addressing commemorative culture in research and teaching using innovative and application-oriented formats.
  • as a laboratory for a discursively thoughtful definition of the terms and phenomena ‘commemoration’ and ‘public history.’
  • as an impulse and a space of resonance for a multifaceted social discourse.