The new map is more reminiscent of early modernity, of the trade and pilgrimage routes, of the links between holy cities and routes of world communication. Periphery and centre, far and near – everything is being re-positioned. Even the most recent scenes of coming clashes are marked on this map of the new Europe: the London underground stations, the Moscow metro, the suburban railway station of Madrid-Antoch, where the bombs exploded. Marked on these most recent maps are the places where Europe is at its most vulnerable – in the public spaces of its great cities.

I wish I had expressed this as effectively as Karl Schlögel has here.  However, the fuzzy world which he sees coming into view–the one formed in spite of the memories of Cold War conflict between Europeans–has a much deeper history.  The Wall divided Europe, but the since of East and West has been ingrained in memory for much longer, at least since the Enlightenment.

Where the West ended and the East began was never clear, and many would argue that they were truly in the West, those over the next hill were in the East.  But East and West were two parts of the Christian world at different stages of development. Progress and openness on one side of the continent appeared opposite despotism and feudalism on the other.  The western states were in control of their own nations, subsequently dominating the world.  The eastern states-if they could be called states–were at the mercy of competing nationalisms.

Moreover, the eastern states were at the periphery, muddle in affairs of Asian countries and peoples.  Their orientation forced them to adapt to their social and cultural institutions to the proximity of the non-European world.  The orientalism of the West allowed them to overcome geography and dominate the non-European world.  The vestiges of this perspective appear whenever affairs of Georgia or Turkey are discussed.  It’s not the division between East and West made manifest by Soviet domination.  But it is a division made by the West, with a longer life.


At Cliopatria, Claire Potter sadly reports on the passing of Charles Tilly, a giant of French history. “Memorials to Credit and Blame”, excerpted in The American Interest ( May/June 2008 ) from an upcoming book, is worth perusing for its brief reflections on the personal life of an academic history and for his analysis of the Hermann Monument and Sacré Coeur. However, he ends on a cautionary note:

We should therefore be very careful when asking authorities to officially sanction our assignments of credit and blame. One day, for sure, there will be some kind of memorial for the Iraq war, and perhaps the Afghanistan war as well. We had better be careful how we design those monuments and the stories of credit and blame they invariably will tell. We can only hope that, when all is said and done, we will build and tell stories about those monuments in a way that creates consensus instead of separation. It is not always easy or obvious how to do that.

Marc Comtois posted the 62nd History Carnival. Somehow I got top billing, perhaps guaranteeing that a few poorly chosen words will live on forever. And I dragged Jonathan Dresner down with me! Great links on Wilentz.

Since I really need to raise my cool quotient after posting Dave Dee et al‘s “Bend It”, I’m going to link to one of the coolest trad sites on the internet, the plainly named Cajun Music MP3. What is it? Neal Pomea has digitized (what looks like) about 200 old 78s from the golden days of regional music in Louisiana. The quality isn’t always good: some discs pop, others skip, and some do both. My favorites: Le ‘tit Nègre à Tante Dolie, J’ai Passé devant ta Porte, Creole Blues , Madame Sosthene and Quand Je Suis Bleu.

Anthropologist Maurice Bloch has some interesting things to say about the differences between psychological and cultural memory.

I am very interested in the connection between the psychological process of inscribing one’s individual past and public manifestations or verifications of “the past”. That is the interesting question. But if you use the word “remember” for both, it makes it seem that the connection between the two is perfectly straightforward. By denying the public implications of memory, it seems to be that one can ask much better how there can be a connection between the two levels, without assuming that there is one – because I’d say that most of the time there isn’t. That’s the first point.

The second point is that when you say that collectivities remember, you are speaking metaphorically. Given the normal meaning of the word “remember”, that would require the brain and the neural system. Therefore, collectivities literally cannot remember. That doesn’t mean that the metaphor isn’t useful or thought provoking. But, like all metaphors, it becomes harmful when we forget that it’s a metaphor. When we say that we can study how collectivities remember, while knowing that they can’t, is to be contradictory.

Stasi, Mauer? War Da Was?” by Rainer Eppelmann looks at the roots and remedies of Ostalgie.

Woher beziehen also Jugendliche heute ihr Bild von der DDR? Wohl im Wesentlichen aus den Erzählungen im Familienkreis oder den Darstellungen in den Medien und im Film. Die Opfer der zweiten Diktatur in Deutschland finden in diesen Darstellungen nur selten Raum. Sie – die Ausgebürgerten, die Bespitzelten, die Verhafteten, die Ermordeten – kommen nur am Rande vor, ihre Schicksale bleiben zumeist vergessen. Dass es viele Zehntausende waren, davon zeugt heute nur noch, dass sie – endlich – seit Herbst 2007 den Anspruch auf eine Opferpension haben. Worauf wir gemeinsam gehofft und wovon wir geträumt haben und wofür wir – wenn auch nicht alle und nicht alle gleichermaßen – gekämpft und uns eingesetzt haben: Freiheit und Demokratie, gerät in den Hintergrund.