Research and Core Areas
The Section of Contemporary History researches global, regional and local processes of change in society, business, science and politics. In our research, we focus on the period from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. Our extensive research networks stretch from Graz to Canada, Russia, West Africa, China, Japan and Latin America.
For our research, we primarily use methodology from cultural and social history as well as the history of technology, but we also take inspiration from other disciplines. This helps us to appropriately evaluate the diverse sources of contemporary history such as digital images, films, radio programmes or interviews with contemporary witnesses.
The research core areas of the Section of Contemporary History are:
- Global Contemporary History
- Contemporary European History: Conflict and Migration Research
- Politics of Memory and Cultures of Remembrance
Information on our current research projects and publications can be found on the left.
The world in the early 21st century is globally networked, with goods, shopping habits and people circulating across airports, seas and borders. In addition to traditional media, news and information are distributed increasingly decentralised via social media, travelling cross the entire planet in fractions of a second. This is made possible by state-of-the-art technology: cable networks are laid across entire oceans and thousands of satellites orbit the planet.
In our networked world, there is a growing need to capture historical phenomena not just locally, but in the context of their global dimensions. In the research core area Global Contemporary History, we investigate the development of such global interdependence processes in technology, economy, consumption, science and communication. We analyse how actors in various regions of the world tackle global challenges, be it in combating social inequality and hunger or in building social and material infrastructures. We are not only interested in the underlying social structures, but also in the biographies, mobilities, knowledge and everyday experiences of the people affected.
Methodologically, our research is based on current concepts from global, cultural and social history as well as media studies, cultural spatial research and science and technology studies.
Wars and conflicts do not simply stop once guns fall silent. They come with historical background stories and have consequences. The extent to which these consequences can still be felt decades later is the subject of contemporary historical research and teaching in this core research area. This involves the political, societal, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural consequences of the two World Wars and the Cold War. We focus especially on the topics of migration in the 20th century and the experiences of children in the wake of wars in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the Soviet Union.
We carry out teaching and research projects on contemporary European history with a focus on conflict and migration research, which uses innovative questions to advance the progress of knowledge in this context. The section is characterised i.e. through international and interdisciplinary networking as well as through socio-politically relevant questions. The partnership agreement concluded in August 2018 between the University of Graz and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on Consequences of War (BIK) further promotes a close exchange between research, teaching and impartation. In this way, students can complete internships or gain initial experience in academia.
“Memory” plays a central role in the social negotiations of identity and belongingness as well as in the conflicts surrounding political power and cultural hegemony. Especially since the 1980s and the multi-volume work “Les lieux de mémoire” (Realms of Memory) edited by Pierre Nora, historical studies have dealt theoretically and empirically with discourses and forms of expression of collective memory and reflected on their own role as part of social struggles surrounding remembrance. The history of remembrance and memory as a thematic focus of the Section of Contemporary History began in the late 1980s with research into the "Waldheim affair" and the debates on the culture of remembrance about the Nazi regime and the Second World War. Ultimately, this work in research and teaching continued, focusing on a wide range of questions.
It is based on the cultural-scientific approaches to memory theory, e.g. by Aleida and Jan Assmann, Astrid Erll or Pierre Nora. The research deals with the role of discourses on memory and remembrance of political and social conflicts. The focus here is on the polyphony of the memory narratives, which contradicts the idea of homogeneous (above all national) memories. Different representations of memory are examined – political texts as well as interventions in public space (monuments, street names, etc.) and performative acts (holidays/festivals, inaugurations, etc.), "high culture" as well as popular culture media. In recent years, research focused on the representation of wars and violence in cultural memory (keywords: memorials for wars and revolutions) and political regimes. Discourse-analytical, visual and media-scientific approaches put the interdisciplinary approach to this research area in focus.
Christiane BerthInstitut für Geschichte
Section of Contemporary History, Attemsgasse 8/II, 8010 Graz
Barbara Stelzl-MarxInstitut für Geschichte
Liebiggasse 9/I (L. B. Institut für Kriegsfolgenforschung)