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Memory and national identity

"Countries pay a big price for not dealing with their pasts," said Richard Ned Lebow, James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Government and author of the forthcoming book, The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe. Co-edited by Claudio Fogu and Wulf Kansteiner, the book analyzes how countries acknowledge their war histories and how that memory affects their international relations.

Ned Lebow and Peter Verovsek '06
Ned Lebow (left) and Peter Verovsek '06 (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

"After a war," said Lebow, "countries are labeled as perpetrator, victim, collaborator or bystander. What matters is how a nation's political elite interprets history and advances that message in the public discourse."

"Research for The Politics of Memory involved questioning why countries emphasized certain stories from their past while burying others," said Lebow.

The project struck a cord with Lebow's Presidential Scholar, Peter Verovsek '06. The child of Slovenian immigrant parents, he was born and raised in the United States. Verovsek finished high school in Slovenia after his parents repatriated.

"While helping Professor Lebow, I thought it would be interesting to look at Slovenia using his research model." The idea has become the cornerstone of Verovsek's forthcoming Fulbright Scholarship proposal.

"Relations between Italy and Slovenia are a perfect case study," he said. "During World War II, Italy invaded the Balkans. Italian fascists committed atrocities against Slavic inhabitants. Yugoslav partisans retaliated with their own atrocities and governments on both sides used the historical record for political gain."

"Working with Professor Lebow, I got to see how scholarship works," Verovsek said. "Hopefully my research will help bridge the gap between these two ethnic communities and open new channels of discussion and understanding."

By JOEL AALBERTS

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Last Updated: 5/30/08