In 2005, I began a project at the university of Luxembourg, together with other colleagues, on Luxembourgish lieux de mémoire. We tried to bridge the gap between academic history and public memory by publishing a “book with footnotes” and a “book with a lot of images“. End of 2006, the project was finished and I started working on a history of psychiatry but the lieux de mémoire continued to haunt me. The topic remained extremely popular among academics and conferences continued to be organised. I drifted more and more from the Luxembourgish lieux de mémoire to a more general historiographical reflection on lieux de mémoire. My last article on this theme, entitled “The ‘lieux de mémoire’: a place of remembrance for European historians?”, tries to write a histoire au troisième degré: how the lieux de mémoire became a lieu de mémoire for the European historiography in the last twenty years. If you want to read more, click here.
After a mixed experience as co-editor of a Lieux de mémoire-volume on Luxembourg, I tried in the last years to reflect more on the history and the circulation of this concept in Europe.
The abstract of a chapter I published in a book edited by Stefan Berger and Bill Niven reads as follow:
If an imaginary European History Academy had to choose the word of the last 20 years in historiography, then undoubtedly lieux de mémoire – realms of memory, or Erinnerungsorte in German – would be on the short list. The writings of Pierre Nora on lieux de mémoire have successfully created a meta-concept able to unite the growing studies on memory. Rarely has a notion coined by one person spread so rapidly through the Western academic world. But the homonym of the translations can be treacherous, hiding a heterogeneity of meanings. The following chapter will try to answer three questions. In which intellectual context did the original lieux de mémoire emerge? What was the discursive subtext of the whole enterprise? And how was the theoretical frame translated into practice? In a second step, I will try to trace the European success of the concept by analysing how the French paradigm of lieux de mémoire was introduced into other national historiographic traditions.
If you want to read the whole article, click here.