Is national identity intrinsically tied to the presence of memorials, the forced remembrance of things past? In what ways does memorialization affect and shape national identity, both in positive and negative ways?
This research topic was first introduced to me through Brian Ladd's "The Ghosts of Berlin," and I think this text will be very influential in my research, particularly for its focus on the Berlin Wall (though I would like to expand my topic to memorials in general, looking specifically at case studies, but making broad conclusions rather than specific investigations). (Also shout out to Lindsey for suggesting this initial interest as a research topic in the flesh.) Some of the other readings for class have focused on memorialization, though only in passing, so rereading those texts might be a good idea to extrapolate those passages for my project. In doing some preliminary research through Google Scholar, I found perhaps some relevant books and journal articles. Though it appears nothing explicitly ties to my project within Germany and America, there are several connections. I found a chapter from a book titled "Representations." The chapter is called "Remembering to Forget: Memory, History, and National Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe" by Richard S. Esbenshade. This chapter seems more focused on Eastern Europe than Western Europe/Germany, but I think the ideas and concepts presented will be beneficial to my overall research topic. Likewise, the idea of "memory" in this chapter seems less tangible than what I am aiming for; I am interested in physical manifestations of events that force a certain memory/viewpoint for those who view it, but this chapter seems more focused on memory in general. Nevertheless, this chapter seems to be relevant enough to research more. In doing a search through the UW library system, I found a few other articles on national identity (some with mentions of memorialization) that will be helpful as I begin delving into the topics.
As for on the ground research in Germany, I'm beginning to formulate some ideas about who I want to talk to and how I want to investigate my topic (though these are very loose and very preliminary). In looking at the Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin website, I've found some departments who might be good connections. Particularly, the Department of Art and Visual History because of its connections to physical structures of history, like memorials. Likewise, the Department of Cultural Studies will be useful, simply for its broad application to my topic.
I have also been thinking of what sort of methods I would like to use to fully approach my research. I would like to, of course, do interviews at memorial sites around Berlin. I think these will be really influential to see the wide range of perceptions and interactions between people and these memorials. Since I would also like to get the US perspective, I think it would also be beneficial to create some sort of survey that can be accessed by those back in the States. I am imagining a survey where pictures of American monuments/memorials and German monuments/memorials are shown and the participants write three words to describe their feelings/impressions towards the picture. I can also distribute this in Germany either in virtual form or paper form, whichever is most convenient. I think this will give me a solid foundation in people's general impressions on memorials and the word associations might bring to light interesting connections, leading to solid conclusions in conjunction with my other resources.