Sites of Memory – Sites of Identity: The case of Austria

Soviet War Memorial, Schwarzenbergplatz, Vienna (© Bwag/CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Zoom seminar. 28th June 2022, 5-6.30pm UK / 6-7.30pm CET

Prof. Dr. Marko Demantowsky, Dr. Barbara Pavlek Löbl and Carina Siegl, M.A., Faculty Center for Transdisciplinary Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna

In the past, there has been case-by-case research about Austrian monuments and memorials and their relevance to questions of Austrian national identity. However, these case studies have not been integrated into a holistic conceptual framework and, above all, there is no consensus on what makes memorial sites, their meaning and purpose, ‘national’ and how they are used to construct historical narratives.

Our goal is to disentangle these narratives, to map and to expose the dynamics of past and present national meaning-making and attribution. In addition, we have very little empirically grounded knowledge about what happens at these sites today. We need to know more about how they are used, by whom, and for what. We need to understand how people think with them and whether they add something to their image of history. Are they merely welcome but replaceable sightseeing destinations or do they carry significant cognitive or emotional weight?

This last question has become eminently political in recent years as public memorials have come under attack across the global West, a process that some social groups perceive to be significantly disturbing. The Austrian writer Robert Musil claimed that nothing is as invisible as a monument. This view is more doubtful than ever today. Our research and development focus will pursue these questions cooperatively in a transdisciplinary way on the basis of ethnological, historical and social scientific methodologies and methods. This work might very well become of exemplary interest far beyond Austrian borders.

Our presentation will consist of three parts. First, Marko Demantowsky will introduce the main research question, hypotheses and theoretical foundations of the project, followed by an overview of the state of research in public history and cultural heritage studies. Then, Barbara Pavlek Löbl will outline the methodological framework and research data management plan for the project. Finally, Carina Siegl will present a preliminary case study of the Soviet War Memorial in Vienna and its representation in social media.

The event is free and open to all. Registration is at this link.

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