Media Memories and Transcultural Communication

Research Focus

Whether World War II, the Holocaust, Soviet-style party dictatorships, the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, the Tsunami disaster, or 9/11: there is a never-ending stream of event recollections and historical topics in newspapers, magazines, on TV shows, or online. The memory of events is crucial for the self-understanding of societies as it shapes, communicates and constructs collective identities. Mass media and journalism, in particular, play a decisive role in communicating the past.

In the light of ongoing global exchange processes, we need to recognize that cultures are increasingly interwoven. According to the concept of transculturalization, individuals and societal groups are part of several fields. Up to now, memory research has focused mainly on remembering within national and regional contexts. It is rarely reflected that memory as a process in the present is important for future actions, especially when we look at sustainable and cross-border societal learning.

The aim of our research group is to broaden the horizons in the fields of media memory research and in transnational and transcultural communication. Therefore we analyze theoretically and empirically how the media convey and shape social memory regarding transcultural processes.

Key Questions

  1.  Which mechanisms and features shape mediated social memory processes in a globalized (transcultural) society?
  2. Does the way societies remember accelerate transcultural developments? What roles do the media and journalism play in this process?
  3. Do general processes of transculturalization automatically lead to transcultural forms of mediated memory?
  4. To what extent and under what conditions can we even speak of memory processes that transcend national and cultural borders, for example within Europe?
  5. How are transcultural forms of remembering reflected in media contents, their production, and processes of media appropriation?
  6. Which challenges do journalists and other media professionals face and which standards should mediated memory content meet?

These key questions are applied to various topics.

Current Research Topics

Our research group is currently working on two interwoven topics, “Mediated Memory and the transformation of societies” and “Mediated Memory within (socio-political) transformation processes”. The underlying assumption is that processes of social change are particularly meaningful for achieving collective self-understanding. Hence these processes become essential for collective memory. Transformation processes usually lead to a re-evaluation or realignment of collective social memory in order to delegitimize “old” power structures on the one hand and legitimize the “new” societal order on the other hand. Thus, the past is (re-)told in alternative or new ways so that these phases of social transformation provide possibilities to generate patterns of transnational and transcultural memory.

Consequently we focus on the following research questions:

  • How do transforming societies remember? And how do social memories change in times of political and societal transformation? What role do the media and journalism play in this process?
  • How are past totalitarian (or at least non-democratic) regimes and processes of transformation remembered in the various world regions and to which circumstances and to what extent do these various ways of remembering reveal transnational patterns?

We observe a series of transformation processes that can no longer be described in a national context: in unified Germany, the former Eastern Bloc, in the countries of Northern Africa, or in Latin American countries formerly ruled by military dictators and, last but not least, in light of our current overall economic crisis. These and further transformation processes require a transcultural approach.

Members of the research group

Prof. Dr. Irene Neverla (spokesperson); Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner (spokesperson);
Dr. Monika Pater; Judith Lohner, M.A.; Dipl.-Journ. Stefanie Trümper, M.A.


Research Center for Media and Communication
c/o University of Hamburg and Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research

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