Re-Imagining the Past

In many parts of the world, globalization is perceived as the cause of ‘loss’, not only of jobs or sources of income, but of entire ‘forms of life’ or ontological security. This experience of loss often results in a desire to return to seemingly better times, which are subject to idealizations and projections, sometimes even as aggressive promises to restore past “greatness”. In this workshop, we want to approach this phenomenon through the lens of the guiding concept of “re-imagining the past” (Rückbesinnung). It refers to the process by which the past, often interpreted as a national past, is retroactively charged with meaning. This includes both vague fantasies and imaginations and spiritual or quasi-religious veneration of sites, policies or persons, who are often imbued with a mythical character. 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 and re-created present are constantly challenged and undermine these practices. We are therefore equally interested in the conflicts over symbols and representations.

Our focus here is on symbolic politics and medial representation of these imagined linkages between past and present. We emphasize that symbol, metaphor, narration, myths and images play a central role in political language, prefigure the definition of problems and realities, and provide legitimation for contested decisions and policies. We start from the assumption that this performative effect of symbols can be observed in political forms of re-imaginations. We know from research on nation building that symbols and symbolic politics form communities and create identities which unite but at the same time also exclude. Concepts like “imagined communities” or “narrative communities” illustrate the cohesive energies of symbolic-political community building.

Building on our common interest in symbols, forms of narration and representation and the politics of the temporal, we have tentatively identified five areas or battlegrounds of symbolic re-imagination. All of them are constituted by struggles over meaning and interpretive power, with regard to a) gender relations, b) to sites such as monuments or historicized localities, c) to cultural-ideological underpinnings of home and nation, d) to the realm of nature and the natural as well as e) politics of remembrance.

 

Re-imagining the future: Is UNESCO on to something?

Blogpost by Sarah-Lea Effert on the CIPS Blog.

This blogpost was produced following the Re-Imagining the Past Conference, jointly organised by CIPS and the Centre for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

The Fate of Unwanted Art: Poland’s Symbolic Dealing with the Communist Past

Blogpost by Karolina Kluczewska on the CIPS Blog.

This blogpost was produced following the Re-Imagining the Past Conference, jointly organised by CIPS and the Centre for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.