Workshop: Re-imagining the Past (Die neue Rückbesinnung)

Hybrid Training Course, 12 October 2022

In times of multiple crises and anxieties, we witness a desire to return to (seemingly) better times, which are subject to idealizations and projections. In this workshop, we approached this phenomenon through the lens of the guiding concept of re-imagining the past (Rückbesinnung).

This refers to the process by which the past is retroactively charged with meaning. Re-imagining, in this context, does not merely stand for the representation of what belongs to the past. Rather, it is a cultural activity, which, as a lynchpin for a transformation of political order, is always also oriented towards the future. At the same time, interpretations of the past are constantly challenged and contested. While promises to restore past national ‘greatness’ are the domain of far right politics, progressive or emancipatory political projects also mobilize re-imaginations of the past. How do struggles over symbolic representations of the past unfold in view of ecological, geopolitical and social crises? How can we study (pop)cultural representations of re-imagined pasts and their implications for current political projects? What are the normative and strategic promises and pitfalls of mobilizing re-imaginations of the past as counter-narratives to far right storytelling? These and other questions were explored from an interdisciplinary perspective in this workshop, which took up discussions already initiated at the online conference in 2021 and was co-sponsored by the main research area 'Transformation of contemporary societies' at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Workshop Programme

10:00 – 10:15

Welcome and Introduction

10:15 – 11:30

Panel 1

Anna Schober: A People of Victims – The Presence of Iconic Images of Slavery at Covid Action and Climate Demonstrations in Contemporary Germany

Bernhard Forchtner: Nature’s Past in the New Right Imaginary: The Case of Die Kehre in Germany

Friederike Kuntz: Untimely Utopia of Eternal Return – On the Chronopolitics of the European New Right

11:30 – 12:00

Coffee Break

12:00 – 13:15

Panel 2

Sarah-Lea Effert: Transformative or Futures Literacy: A Counter-Strategy to ReImagined Pasts?

Katja Freistein, Frank Gadinger, and Christine Unrau: Reclaiming the Past: New Progressive Positions in a Culture War

Siddharth Tripathi: Nostalgia and the 'New India': Envisioning a Future through the Golden Past

13:15 – 14:15

Lunch Break

14:15 – 15:30

Panel 3

Emilia Palonen: Shared Sacred Spaces as a Source for Nationalism

Karolina Kluczewska: Re-imagining the Past, Building the Future: Visual State and Nation-Building in Tajikistan

Birgit Mersmann: Image Disputes over the Past: Posticonoclast Heritage Reconstruction

15:30 – 16:00

Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:15

Panel 4

Stefan Groth Authentic Texts and ‘Original Ideas’ : On the Interpretation of Foundational EU Frameworks

Bidisha Biswas: Constructed Pasts and Imagined Homelands : (Mis)Understandings of History among the Indian Diaspora

Johannes Völz: The Politics of Memory in US Talk Radio

17:15 – 17:45




Re-Imaginging the Past, a Conference Report

Click the image below to learn more about the 2021 conference