Narrated (hi)stories in an intercultural context: How young people in Germany and Poland deal with tensions between communicative and cultural memory
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SubjectHistorical consciousness; Young adult; Intercultural education; Conversation analysis; Germany; Eastern Europe; Narrative interviews; Secondary schools; Qualitative research; Empirical research; Literature; Area 10; Area 11
In the course of their lives, adolescents in Europe have encountered numerous stories about the Second World War, Nazism, German Occupation, and the Holocaust. Integrated into diverse social memory contexts, these young people form their own ideas about the past. The following contribution focuses on narrated (hi)stories in the sense of linguistically structured and narratively transmitted memories. It is mainly from these narrated (hi)stories – besides other sources such as images and places (Assmann 2003) – that young people develop their historical consciousness. To illustrate this, I present one part of a four-part study conducted within the framework of my doctoral thesis Literarische Gespräche im interkulturellen Kontext (Discussions about Literature in an Intercultural Context). In focused interviews, I asked secondary school students in Germany and Poland about their knowledge and perceptions of German-Polish history during the Nazi period. Four forms of narrative presentation from which young people acquire a knowledge of history can be inductively reconstructed from the interview data: stories heard in the family, stories read (seen or heard) in literature and the media, stories learnt at school, and stories experienced 'on the street'. Although the topic appears equally present to students in Germany and Poland, the stories told about that period, and their interpretation, differ fundamentally in all four spheres and in the respective cultural contexts. Confronted with these diverse stories, adolescents are challenged to relate the various – and sometimes contradictory – versions to each other and to develop their own historical consciousness by grappling with this heterogeneity and multiperspectivity. Literary and media narratives, in particular, enable students to include transcultural perspectives in their consciousness-building process.
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