“Europe has walled-in itself.” With this simple line, the movie of Lars Krauma from 2010 sets a scene, where the audience is confronted with a Europe in chaos and swaying due to a conflict in the oil states and the persistent stream of refugees from the South. Sounds familiar? I think so. Even, if the movie might not be a masterpiece, the farsightedness is staggering. In this film, the European Union (EU) has built a wall throughout the Alps, blocking all mountain pass roads. In the light of Austrian’s recent announcement to deploy soldiers and fences at the Brenner Pass road, this science-fiction becomes reality. However, despite these measures, which violates the very idea of the EU, the majority of people remains silent, and a minority is on the streets, making the most vulnerable of this whole issue to a scapegoat for everything: the refugee itself.
As a late follow-up to my last post about a potential future for the history of medicine, I want to dedicate this article to the issues that arise when using medical categories and sources for historical investigations. Especially the previously mentioned terms of ‘trauma’ or ‘collective memory’ are highly disputed and remain blurry in their definitions – not least because they lack a definite character within medicine as well. Due to this deficit and the modernity of the terms, critics claim that the use of ‘trauma’ in history and commemoration practices, for example, would be similar to the utilisation of Darwinism to explain social and political phenomena in the 19th and 20th century. Therefore, in this post, I want to discuss the pitfalls as well as the potential use of medical terminology and understanding of the history of medicine’s future.
In the last couple of months, I had the pleasure to listen to a few highly interesting and engaging lectures and research seminars. Unsurprisingly, when considering my field of interest, most of them were located in the realm of medical and Cold War history. While attending these events, however, I was astonished how some established historians claimed for themselves to rewrite a topic’s historiography of international relevance post-1945, without acknowledging Eastern Bloc, or even Soviet Union sources, developments and historical research.
Investigating GDR history, one would encounter the claim of being ‘apolitical’ quite frequently – a claim, which describes the notion of being somehow removed from ‘big’ politics as well as the everyday political penetration of the private sphere by the socialist state. Historians in the past postulated that this notion was a typical reaction of the people towards the politicisation of their lives, establishing so-called ‘niches’ of retreat – some might claim it was the second ‘Biedermeier‘ era. Unsurprisingly, with this assumption the picture of the so-called ‘Gartensparten‘, or ‘Dachas‘ in Soviet Russia, was connected, which offered exactly the desired private realm, supposedly removed from politics.