Memories of Migration(s) in school/Erinnerungen an Migration(en) in Schulen

By Üllen, Sanda; Markom, Christa | Journal for Educational Research Online, September 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Memories of Migration(s) in school/Erinnerungen an Migration(en) in Schulen


Üllen, Sanda, Markom, Christa, Journal for Educational Research Online


1.Introduction

This article presents the results of the Migration(s) in Textbooks - A Critical Analysis by Pupils, Teachers and Researchers research project, which was carried out between 2011 and 2013.1 It begins by presenting an overview of the theoretical framework and providing general information on the analyzed geography and history textbooks and the attitudes of teachers toward the topic of migration. The article then explains how pupils themselves define migration, how they judge the quantity and the quality of information on migration related issues in their textbooks, and which parts of history they identify as memorable. Finally, it concludes by summarizing how the history of migration to/from Austria is perceived by the pupils and assessing whether migration history can be seen as a part of Austrian collective memory.

2.Theoretical framework

School textbooks provide pupils with selected narratives and knowledge perceived to be important to those living within the respective society. History textbooks in particular are cited as a kind of "national biography" (Lozic & Hintermann, 2010, p. 33), or as "classical containers of national narratives" (Ohliger, 2010, p. 13), and primary indicators of socially accepted knowledge (Höhne, 2000) where the hegemonic image of national history is portrayed and imparted to pupils. Furthermore, textbooks are seen as sources for the "Zeitgeist, particularly the collective memory" (Schissler, 2009, p. 205) and thus, are given relevance when it comes to (re)constructing, claiming, or rejecting group identities which are not free of contestation. Hintermann (2010) states that "processes of inclusion and exclusion are at work, when it comes to the selection of topics and the way they are depicted" (p. 61). Textbooks also transport images of the Self and the Other, designing collective identities and politics of belonging (Erler, 2011; Repoussi & Tutiaux-Guillon, 2010; Yuval-Davis, 2010; Torsti, 2007). According to this concept, constructing a collective identity is a product of "... narratives that create group cohesion. ... Narrating 'us', on the one hand, and differentiating the 'others', as a supposedly contrasting activity, are in essence two sides of the same coin" (Jonker & Thobani, 2010, p. 1). Thus, if we perceive textbooks as highly selective and influenced by political ideologies, whether they are suitable as a frame for collective identities and memories is questionable.

In his work on collective memories, Maurice Halbwachs (1985) distinguished between history, autobiographical memory, and collective memory. For him, history is "dead past" (Cattell & Climo, 2002, p. 4) which we know only through historical records. Collective memory and autobiographical memories are more active, and include personal experiences shaped by multiple social frameworks. Halbwachs has been widely criticized for creating an opposition between history and memory and for reifying and essentializing the view of history. Nevertheless, he also stressed that individual memories are always shaped by different social frames (cadres sociaux), such as the family, a peer group, or a school class. There are always intersecting belongings to different social frames and therefore always a plurality of collective memories. Nowadays, researchers are examining the development of collective memories as a process, one that is also "constructed and reconstructed by the dialectics of remembering and forgetting, shaped by semantic and interpretive frames, and subject to panoply of distortions that make accuracy and truth major issues" (Cattell & Climo, 2002, p. 23). In this perspective, memories are seen not only as determined by the social frame as in Halbwachs's conception, but are viewed as a discursive and narrative constructions that integrate past, present, and future, and in doing so help to shape personal and group identities (Cattell & Climo, 2002). Consequently, memory is not simply a matter of recalling past experiences; it is "a complex and continuing process of selection, negotiation, and struggle over what will be remembered and what forgotten" (Natzmer, 2002, p. …

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