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Photo:Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989,” by Gavin Stewart licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue is modified from the original.

Göpffarth, Julian. “Memory and Illiberalism.” In The Routledge Handbook of Memory Activism, pp. 438-442. Routledge, 2023.


Illiberal movements in contemporary Europe are largely associated to a far right striving for a glorified and homogenized nationalist memory. Drawing on Koselleck’s theory of time, this chapter looks at different levels of memory activism to explore how the German far right activates distinct “sediments of time” to construct a selective and exclusive national memory. The chapter will draw on local ethnography and the analysis of a national far-right memory discourse to examine how singular, repetitive, and transcendent temporalities are intertwined. Referring to singular events such as the 30-Years-War, the 68 social movement and the 1989 revolution, recurrent temporal themes of war, alternative politics and revolution are activated and embedded into an alternative transcendental national memory. Such a process not only entails a re-activating and dis-activating of memories but equally a performative en-acti(vati)ng of memory that prefigures an alternative memory culture in the present. It will be argued that illiberal memory activism can thus not rely on linear stories of national greatness. Rather, to mobilize support for an alternative memory, activists need to engage with a complex reality of memories that constantly risk undermining the notion of homogeneity and exclusivity.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.