1st Edition

Postnational Memory, Peace and War Making Pasts Beyond Borders

By Nigel Young Copyright 2020
    378 Pages 32 Color & 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    378 Pages 32 Color & 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    378 Pages 32 Color & 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines the phenomenon of modern memory as a reaction to total war, an aspiration to truth-seeking provoked by the independent forces of modern war and collective violence which is transnational, or postnational, in character. Using examples from prose and poetry, film and theatre, painting and photography, and music and the popular arts, the author traces a narrative path through the events of the twentieth century, defining the tradition of modern memory in terms of its essentially anti-militaristic, anti-war character, as expressed in the manner in which it represents recalled violence and atrocity. Through a series of thematic discussions of two world wars, the Shoah, urbicide and nuclear weapons, Postnational Memory explores the formation of transnational memory, drawing on examples from industrialized societies, with a focus on memory of real events and their reproduction in literature and the arts, often including personal recollections that link the self to the represented past. As such, by asking how the concept of modern memory is constructed through the victims of war and genocide, the book constitutes an alternative to national memories and hegemonic, militarist or ethnocentric histories. Surveying the emergence of new, transnational forms of remembering the past, it will appeal to students and scholars of sociology, memory studies and peace studies, as well as those working in disciplines such as modern and international history, cultural studies and military studies.

    Part 1: Memory and Counter-Memory


    Vignette: Being There - A Cotswold Vignette (Adlestrop)

    Introduction: Defining Modern Memory

    Vignette: Kennington At Laventie

    1. A Memorable Engagement –The War to End War – and its Legacy (inc. Vignette: ‘Bradford Pals’)

    2. The Great Sunk Silences: The Nature of Forgetting and the Unbearable Pain of Recall

    3. Memory’s New Voice

    4. Generations of Memory: War Booms and Memory Booms

    5. Strange Meetings and Cosmopolitan Sympathies (inc. Vignette: Eugen Gehweiler, Vignette: ‘An Espresso Moment’)

    Part 2: Against Forgetting – Retrieving a Borderless Past

    6. Memory after the "Shoah" (inc. Vignette: Being There: Poland: 1988, 1996)

    7. Airwar and Memory (inc. Vignette: A Silence, Vignette: ‘Bambi’; ‘Belsen and Memory of the Camps’)

    Part 3: Re-Writing Memory

    8. Beyond Amnesia: Breaking Silences (inc. Vignette: Benicàssim – Raising the Ghosts of Castillon De La Plana)

    9. Testimony of Place (inc. Vignette: Walking the Fields of Memory: Germany 1994, France and Flanders (1988 and 1992))

    10. Beyond Militarism? Peace and War in Civil Memory (inc. Vignette: Oh! What a Lovely War! Vignette: A Mass of Memoried Flowers – Poppies and Ploughboys)11. Postnational Memory and National Conflict: Remembrance in a Globalising Society

    Part 4: Towards a History of Modern Memory

    12. Towards a History of Modern Memory I: The Work of the Precursors

    13. Towards a History of Modern Memory II: A Memory-Work Timeline

    14. The Past in the Present- Metamorphosen (inc. Vignette: Yevgeny Khaldei - The Malleability of Memory and the Reichstag Photo, 1945)


    Nigel Young is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Research Professor in Peace Studies at Colgate University, USA. He is the editor in chief of the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace and co-editor of Campaigns for Peace: The British Peace Movement in the 20th Century. He is the author of Nation State and War Resistance, On War, National Liberation and The State, and An Infantile Disorder? The Crisis and Decline of the New Left, and the co-author of Pacifism in the 20th Century.

    'Nigel Young’s rich tapestry of words, images and reflections leads us to understand how the total wars of the 20th century have shaped and changed our modern sense of memory. He shows how the shattering experiences of two world wars — and of the genocides, annihilations, crimes against humanity and the first use of nuclear weapons which accompanied them — have been dealt with in different ways. Some memories have been suppressed, some have emerged from long silence, and many have been variously interpreted and re-interpreted over the decades. They have also generated powerful art (vividly illustrated here), journalism and literature. Memory has moved from the private to the public sphere, developing new transnational forms to challenge the orthodoxies of nationalism and hegemonism. This is a book which invites us to revisit both the past and the present with searching questions about the impact of war on modern human consciousness.' - John Gittings, author of The Glorious Art of Peace: Paths to Peace in a New Age of War.

    'Memory is now a specialised field of its own and the author has spent much of his career deeply engaged in it, especially as it relates to modern war, genocide and mass violence - including nuclear weapons. Drawing on a huge range of examples from prose, poetry, film and theatre, painting, photography, music and the popular arts, he traces a narrative path through the tragic events of the 20th century. In this way, Young sketches out a history of modern remembering and explores the formation of a ‘transnational’ (or ‘postnational’) historical awareness, as an alternative to purely national narratives and imperial, militarist or ethnocentric histories. He takes us to ‘sacred’ sites (Auschwitz, Hiroshima and many more) and intersperses the more theoretical passages with telling personal ‘vignettes’. This remarkable work is intense and deeply felt; not always an easy read, but one that repays the effort." - Colin Archer, MAW (The Movement for the Abolition of War) newsletter

    "Given its historical range and geographical scope, Nigel Young’s project – which is to trace what he interprets as a modern, postnational ‘collective memory’ since around World War I - is a considerable achievement. Throughout the book, Young’s own voice, and experiences – largely expressed in intermittent personal vignettes - covering decades of reflection and experience - contribute to making this an amazing and exhilarating read.' - Tom Wengraf, former lecturer at Middlesex University and Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, UK

    '[…] Nigel Young’s Postnational Memory, Peace and War: Making Pasts Beyond Borders has a relevance beyond its range and cogency as an academic study. [The author] finds a foundation for transnational remembering and for consequent shared action in the future. He faces up to contemporary problems in achieving this: on the one hand, a rise in nationalism and fundamentalism, on the other hand a social-media absorption in an eternal present. But again, he finds numerous heartening examples of those creating ‘a global archive of the past in the present’, reaching out beyond national, ethnic or religious barriers to create a ‘Transnational Memory’ through which both past suffering and future hopes can be shared.' - K. E. Smith, The Friend

    'Young’s book is a scholarly and profound analysis of the memory of (mainly) the two world wars […]. His focus on the formation of a transnational or postnational memory, characterized by anti-war and anti-militarist sentiments and insights, truth-telling, and a recognition of "the other," makes this an original contribution to what is already a rich literature. Young fully engages with it and draws his examples from a wide variety of cultural representations of memories of war and peace: not only literature but also painting, sculpture, photography, music, theater, and films (some 50 are listed in the filmography at the end of the volume).' - Peter van den Dungen, Memory Studies

    'Nigel Young’s Post-national Memory, Peace and War: Making Pasts Beyond Borders is a magnificent labyrinth of a book that takes its reader in numerous interesting directions. It is not always easy to read. However, it is packed with fruitful ideas, images and insights. It draws on the author’s life’s work as a peace activist; as an academic and researcher in peace studies; as a public intellectual; and as editor of the Oxford International Encyclopaedia of Peace. It successfully combines deep analysis with personal witness, notably in the numerous vignettes and images, which are scattered though the book. Whilst drawing upon the insights of psychology, the book is truly multidisciplinary. It explores how war and peace are represented in poetry, war memorials, paintings, plays and requiems; as well as in popular arts, like murals, songs, cartoons, journalism, novels and films ... … In sum, the book tells us not only to continue telling the truth about war, militarism, and empire, but also to engage with diverse forms of counter-memorialization: new ways of tapping historical memory; new ways of identifying how war is resisted and spaces for peace are opened; and new ways of imagining alternative more peaceful futures.' - Robin Luckham, Peace and Conflict

    '[This book] provides a brilliant scholarly analysis of how cultural responses to the mass killing practices of the twentieth century— including modern war, urbicide, and genocide— have contributed to the creation of a cosmopolitan collective memory. Postnational Memory, Peace and War is a superbly researched, immensely erudite, and insightful study— a work of great intellectual sophistication. It should inspire profound reflections upon the phenomenon of repeated mass violence since 1914, as well upon the role that memory might still play in averting such atrocities in the future.' - Lawrence Wittner, Peace & Change