Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today: Books

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today: Books

Article excerpt

Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today By Sharon Macdonald Routledge, 320pp, Pounds 80.00 and Pounds 24.99 ISBN 9780415453332 and 53349 Published 2 April 2013

With the end of the Cold War it became an academic and journalistic preoccupation to disentangle the layers of European history and to analyse the creation and destruction of national heritage throughout the 20th century. After the engagement, both with short-term history in the making and with long-term histories, reassessment shows that the many facets of memory that experienced a boom in recent decades require close inspection, too.

Coming to terms with the topic is made more difficult by the fact that some "pasts loom especially large in both official and popular memory within Europe". In Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today, Sharon Macdonald winds a path through the numerous academic engagements and the products of collective memory with which Europe seems to be obsessed. The past is preserved with the help of authentic heritage sites, countless memorials, carefully designed museums, commemorative plaques and imaginative art installations. Macdonald argues that nevertheless throughout the Continent there are at work distinct patterns of (re)configuring the past in the present.

The chapter "Feeling the past: Embodiment, place and nostalgia" deals with the sentiments attached to memory. Nostalgia, for example, became palpable in the Europe of the 1990s and the early 2000s. While in England television channels indulged their viewers with roll calls of almost- forgotten goods from their childhood and favourite films, East Germany, with the help of Ostalgie - a nostalgia for aspects of life under socialist rule - remembered treasured aspects of its pre-1989 past until it turned into a booming film and commodities industry. Post-socialist nostalgia in Eastern European countries followed suit. Macdonald highlights examples of so-called ironic nostalgia: in Hungary, objects of Cold War-era kitsch demonstrate distance from the past, while the marketing and consumption of "Soviet" sausages in Lithuania could be interpreted as an attempt to reclaim citizenship for a marginalised group of the population - unless one acknowledges that consumers simply felt that "the sausage tasted good". …

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