Representations of Group Identities: Tradition, Memory, Propaganda

When thinking about Jena, one of the first things that comes to one’s mind are the names Goethe and Schiller, the two famous and influential writers, who spent some years in this town situated in the middle of Germany. Or if this wasn’t what you thought about, well, you can still find it in most resources on the history of Jena, including the websites of the city and the university – which is even called ”Friedrich-Schiller-Universität”, in fact. It seems like the officials are quite proud of this image, no matter how much the individuals in question actually identified themselves with Jena during their lifetime. When looking at the whole history of the city and university, including much darker chapters in the 20th century and before, it becomes doubtful why such a short period of time is given so much prominence over others, and why certain individuals are favoured while others are forgotten.

All this is a matter of the public representation of tradition, memory and, indeed, identity. But what are the factors that lead people – and which people? – to make such choices? How are figures and events of the past interpreted when an “official” history is formed? What role can (historical) science play in propagating certain facets of identity, or in solving identity-related conflicts? These are just some questions which will be touched upon in this workshop.

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