From 2018-2020, the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Konstanz hosts a Research Group funded by the Balzan Prize that was awarded in 2017 to Aleida and Jan Assmann for their work on Cultural Memory. The topic of the research project is ‘Reconstructing Memory in the City – Transnational and Local (European) Sites of Memory’.
The focus of the Balzan Project is on the dynamics of collective memory as it is shaped by initiatives and movements from below. Emphasis will be put on (European) cities and local actors that respond to new social, political and cultural challenges in their built environment. A basic tenet of the project is that towns and cities are a crucial context for the negotiation of the past in a time of radical change. The research blog investigates the emergence of new memory practices that reshape collective memory and identity in the age of globalization and migration at the beginning of the 21st century.

The group is composed of:

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Aleida Assmann, Director of the Balzan Research Group

Prof. em. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jan Assmann, Director of the Balzan Research Group

Dr. Gruia Badescu, Balzan-Preis-Fellow

Dr. Ulrike Capdepón, Balzan-Preis-Fellow

Dr. Piotr Kisiel, Balzan-Preis-Fellow

Dr. Ann-Sophie Schoepfel, Balzan-Preis-Fellow

The profiles of the Balzan-Preis-Fellows are described in the following:

Gruia Badescu’s research examines how interventions in urban space relate to societal and political processes of dealing with a difficult pasts, including war and political violence. His work on post-war reconstruction included comparative studies of Sarajevo and Beirut, as well as a PhD dissertation conducted at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, where he analysed the relationship between post-war urban reconstruction and coming to terms with the past in Belgrade and Sarajevo. In 2015, Gruia joined the University of Oxford as a Departmental Lecturer in Human Geography and has been since 2017 a research associate with an AHRC-Labex Les Passés dans le Présent  grant, in which he has examined transnational processes of memorialization and museification of sites used for political violence during previous dictatorial regimes in the Southern Cone of Latin America and in Southeastern Europe. In October 2018, he has joined as a post-doctoral researcher the team of the project “Reconstructing memory in the city”, led by Jan and Aleida Assmann at the University of Konstanz. He is currently working on a monograph on post-war architectural reconstruction and dealing with the past.

Ulrike Capdepón, Dipl.-Pol., holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hamburg (2011) and the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA).  She has been a Marie Curie-Fellow at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid, and a Postdoctoral Researcher in the ERC-project “Narratives of Terror and Disappearance in Argentina” at the University of Konstanz. From 2014 to 2016, she was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar affiliated to the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University (New York). In 2017 and 2018 she was a Visiting Scholar and Lecturer at the Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS) at Princeton University. She has published widely about the politics of the past, especially in Latin America’s Southern Cone and Spain, for different academic audiences in English, German and Spanish. She is the author of the book From the Pinochet Case to the desaparecidos of the Spanish Civil War. Coming to terms with the dictatorships’ past and Human Rights Violations in Chile and Spain. [Vom Fall Pinochet zu den Verschwundenen des Spanischen Bürgerkrieges: Die Auseinandersetzung mit Diktatur und Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Chile und Spanien] (Global Studies, Transcript, 2015) and of a substantial number of research papers and book chapters. Her research interests include memory studies, human rights, and transitional justice processes in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. 

Piotr Kisiel graduated in history in 2011 from the University of Dundee, Scotland and in the same year from the Jagiellonian University, Poland. He pursued his PhD at the European University Institute, Italy where he defended his dissertation in January 2016. It derives from not only his MA thesis about German national monuments in the 19th century but also from his knowledge gained while studying law at the Jagiellonian University (graduate 2009). In April 2018 he began his post-docs research project at the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz on postindustrial heritage in Germany and Poland. Piotr Kisiel is an author of peer-reviewed articles on instrumentalization of religious architecture for nationalist in contemporary Poland and nationalist debates on historic preservation in Austria-Hungary. In April 2018 edited version of his PhD dissertation was published by the Herder Institute in Marburg.

Ann-Sophie Schoepfel is a Balzan Prize postdoc research fellow and lecturer in history at Sciences Po Paris. She obtained the Jean-Baptiste Duroselle prize in history of international relations for her research on the Tokyo and Saigon trials in 2018. Her main research fields are post-World War II trials, cultural memory, and comparative history. Her two master thesis in history of international relations analysed sites of memory in China, and the Japanese controversy on the Yasukuni Shrine from 2000 to 2010. She graduated in 2011 in legal anthropology. From 2013 to 2014, she was affiliated with Sciences Po Paris, the United States Holocaust Memorial and the University of Kyoto. She obtained two Phds in history at Lorraine University in 2017 and at Heidelberg University in 2018. During her PhD, she was a Graduate Student in Transcultural Studies and conducted her Ph.D. project within the Junior Research Group A16 Transcultural Justice at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context. From 2017 to 2018, she participated in a research program “Developing International Research and Education Program on the Asie-Pacific War History”, financed by the Japan Society for Promotion of Science. She joined the group “Reconstructing memory in the city” in October 2018 to conduct research on the impact of migration and the memory of migrants on the formation of memory in Europe.