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Political Iconography. Images in European Political Memory

Source: [Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for European History and Public Spheres] Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institut für Europäische Geschichte und Öffentlichkeit

A Project in the framework of cooperative research conducted by the Democracy Centre Vienna with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Europäische Geschichte und Öffentlichkeit [Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for European History and Public Spheres], the ZMI Gießen [Centre for Media and Interactivity, Gießen] and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in Deutschland [Federal Centre for Political Education in Germany]

Project Goals:
● To enable access to the European dimension of images in political memories of the twentieth century
● To construct an online picture module for the website www.eurotopics.net
● To make the current state of research on specific European icons in the 20th century accessible to a broader public and suitable for target groups and media.

Project Description:
The Project has as its topic icons as well as iconographies that have had an effect on cultural memory in 20th century Europe and thus occupy key positions in public discourses. Prominent among these are picture motifs frequently reproduced in various formats in the mass media over decades. This access through visual communication enables us to gain a better grasp of an aspect of the construction of Europe that has long been neglected by political communication research and political education. At the same time, the Project connects to the “Pictorial Turn” of past years in the cultural and social sciences. Thus it sponsors public dissemination of key results of visual European contemporary history research.

The criteria for selecting the icons to be reconstructed and deconstructed are determined by period as well as by theme. Thus for one thing we work with visual aspects of European media events of the 20th century (as a rule in relation to crisis communication, for example in connection with the Spanish Civil War, the Berlin Wall of 1961, or the Polish “Solidarity” movement at the beginning of the 1980s or in connection with long lasting social political debates, for example, on the topic of migration (refugee boats on the Southern European border, new walls as in Ceuta and Mellila etc.). For another, we also reconstruct the careers of central iconic image motifs of politically institutionalised Europe (i.e. of the EU and its predecessors), these being an attempt at top-down-implementation of a European image memory that overarches individual national memories. To this we add specific iconographies, overarching events and nations, that have left their mark all across the political history of the 20th century in Europe (e.g, barbed wire).

It is our goal to describe European political iconographies and icons on the basis of the multi-perspective visual history research that has developed particularly since the 1990s. These perspectives have frequently been intermeshed and networked, but still not enough.

Project Implementation:
The thematic nucleus of the Project is created by our handling of 30 “points of intersection” of European political memory of images from the period of the 20th century. Key pictures in the context of trans-national media events come under discussion here as well as specific iconographies and visual memory-cultures. Topics are chosen according to specific guiding perspectives on European history of the 20th century, in particular, wars, the Holocaust, the East-West conflict and migration. Because, however, even 30 points of emphasis do not begin to do justice to the subject in hand, the picture module is conceived in an open-ended way so that further pictures and videos as well as topics can later be integrated into the data bank. Independent of this, each topic has at least one introductory text with references to the current state of research as well as about ten short texts on single picture motifs, which are linked with this introductory text. Further in-depth texts on specific aspects can be added (for example, by showing clips of relevant films). In addition 150 picture motifs will be integrated into the online module with short texts. They will cover areas that could not be included in the framework of the 30 central themes.

Project team:
Direction: Mag.a Gertraud Diendorfer
Assistents: Dr. Benjamin Drechsel, Mag.a Petra Mayrhofer, Dr. Ramón Reichert

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