From “Memory wars” to shared identities: Conceptualizing the transnationalisation of collective memory

Eric Sangar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article seeks to advance the theoretical understanding and empirical operationalization of transnational collective memory. While the theoretical nature of collective memory has been thoroughly analyzed on the national and sub-national level, there has been less conceptual work on the potential of transnational collective memory. Against widespread assumptions that because of the diversity of nationally rooted memories, transnational memory discourses lead to “memory wars”, the text argues that memory discourses are fundamentally different from war discourses. Combing theoretical arguments by scholars of collective identity and transnational communications, memory discourses are conceptualized as claims about the entanglement in a common story. To the extent that such claims and their normative implications are recognized, a transnational collective memory can emerge and even result in the emergence of a transnational collective identity. Building on the conceptualization of the transnationalisation of national public spheres, transnational collective memory can be operationalized through the emergence of transnationally similar memory claims involving similar normative “lessons” in national media discourses. Using this framework, IR scholars can develop systematic and powerful methodological tools enabling the systematic examination of the dynamics of transnational memory discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-93
Number of pages29
JournalRevue Tocqueville
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Communicative theory
  • Identity formation
  • Media discourse analysis
  • Transnational collective memory


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