Militarized landscapes – landscapes of memory: Practices of localized remembrance of the Cold War is the title my PhD project based at the Univeristy of Kiel’s Department of Geography and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Intent of this website

This website is intended both as a research blog aimed at an academic audience and as a means to communicate with stakeholders in the field. As part of a ‚public geography‘ agenda, it is also meant to communicate research to an interested public. However, there is no detailed mission this site is planned to fulfil – it is an experiment, and things will probably change. I will probably reflect on merits and downsides to this website for my research – and I welcome any comments you might have.

The research blog part of the website will be mainly in English, while the wider project and its case studies are in the German language.

Research objective

Recollection and rememberance are not authentic reproductions of a ‘true’ past that is now stored in collective memory. In fact, they should be conceptualized as active and often contested reconstructions that are deeply rooted in the present. The subject of this project are thus practices of rememberance and memory –as carried out, for exampl, by heritage protection agencies, museums and in practices of discovery (e.g. geo-caching). Through such practices, I argue, places and artefacts are recontextualized as objects of collective memory.

The Cold War offers itself as a case study, since memory of that era is clearly visible as an ongoing process that has not yet led to stable patterns of remembrance. This research conforms with the relatively new field of the geography of memory and seeks to pair it with theories of practice. In this view, remembering in a spatial context consists of a set of practices that allocate meaning to places and artefacts, such as Cold War relics. Together, they constitute what could be called ‘landscapes of memory’.

Two different case study areas have been identified for fieldwork: Sleswig-Holsten, on the one hand, is heavily affected by current redeployment of the German armed forces. On the other hand, the region referred to as the ‘Fulda Gap’ is an epitome of the Cold War for the Federal Republic in general and for the peace movement in particular. An ethnographic approach encompassing participant observation, interviews, document and museum analysis, as well as focus group discussions will shed light on practices of memory: How is memory actually lived and embodied in everyday life? How do such practices (re-)produce and negotiate imaginative geographies of memory? The methods applied are set up as a ‘public geography’ to allow for the affected communities to be involved in the research process.

Contact

Please see my institutional website for contact details.

Gunnar