Building the Nation, Building History: Monuments as Tools of Nation-Building in Twentieth-Century Europe

Speaker: Blaze Joel

How do states and ethnic groups use monuments as tools of unity and division in the aftermath of conflict?

All states seek to create a national identity to strengthen their domestic legitimacy. This is especially the case when a state and/or ethnic group undergoes a crisis moment that challenges its national narrative or sense of self. A central way in which nations do this is by commemorating national traumas. Memorials and monuments help to standardize, valorize, and idolize history, turning the national and/or ethnic past into something sacred that needs to be remembered and can unify citizens in the present. 

This talk addresses this topic through an examination of Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland. By analyzing monuments  in these societies, students will be able to better understand national narratives in the US and how the US has commemorated its past. They will also think comparatively about other countries and larger questions of how history is used in the present.

About the Speaker

Blaze Joel is a PhD student in History at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to UC, he received a BA from Dartmouth College in History and Anthropology and an MA from Columbia University and MSc from the London School of Economics in International and World History. His dissertation examines how commemoration, education, and sports are used to maintain social division in the aftermath of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, and the Basque Country through a combination of archival and field research.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 9th - 12th grade and community college

Preparation: There is no preparation necessary, however this talk will be particularly meaningful for students who are familiar with late 20th century history.

Courses: World History, AP European History, US History, Art History, Global Studies, Human Geography

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