Anniversaries such as the 80th anniversary of Armistice Day or the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II provide constant reminders of the importance of history and historical memory to contemporary politics in Germany and Japan. Apart from these perennial journalistic reappearances of history, how is historical memory used in official constructions of national identity? In my dissertation, I argue that the institutional circumstances of policymaking determine the content emphases and orientation of decisions reached in these circumstances. I examine this connection using portrayals of the nation in six historical episodes in high school history textbooks and curricula of Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic from 1945-95. My presentation will provide a more thorough theoretical, though preliminary, argument along these lines. Parts of the presentation will be based on research conducted in Germany over the last year and parts will be an outlook on research to be conducted in Japan over the course of the coming year.
Julian DIERKES is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Princeton University and currently a Research Fellow at the German Institute for Japanese Studies.