Violent Conflict, MEMORY, AND IDENTITY

Memory is a key factor in identity formation, as memory is embodied in us as part of who we are; hence, the concept of memory is increasingly used in both historical and sociological research to analyse issues of identity - particularly in nation-building, but also in conflict situations.

My research is actually focusing on collective memories and how these can play a significant role in group identity formation, leading to a collective social identity. These collective identities are shaped by commemorating past events and sharing cultural symbols and values, often based on positive associations with the past. This is especially true for immigrant groups who often try to create a nostalgic image of their origin country and culture in a foreign environment.

However, immigrant groups often encounter problems when trying to revive memories of their origin culture and identity in their new home country. In particular, children who are born and raised in a country which is embroiled in a violent conflict with the birth country of their parents or grandparents often experience major difficulties in developing a national, cultural, or even social identity, as they feel that they belong "neither there nor here".  This often leads to a feeling of being torn between two countries (and identities), of which neither accepts the individual in question as "one of their own".

When it comes to political violence and terrorism, it has been observed that terrorist groups try to use these ambivalent feelings of identity for their own purposes; they tend to emphasize the role of the inherited identity by amplifying and sometimes even creating collective memories in a bid to gain support for their movement. The use of in-group as well as out-group biases is often transmitted in the form of apparent collective memories, which are shared either between individuals or as part of a community lore.

Therefore, my research is based on the following questions: How are collective memories created? How can identity formation be influenced by transgenerational memories? What can aid second-generation migrants in developing bi-national or bi-cultural identities? How do multiple identities within one individual interact when confronted with a situation of political or social conflict? What kind of identity issues might trigger the desire to support or even take part in politically motivated violence? 

The answers to these questions could lead to a more informed, all encompassing view of people committing acts of political violence, which is crucial for the future of integration concepts and policy-making.


  • Identity Issues with Second or Third-Generation Immigrants 
  • Social/Cultural Identities in Interstate Conflicts
  • Collective and Transgenerational Memories
  • Migration and Nationalism
  • Intrastate and Inter-Communal Conflicts
  • Political Violence and Terrorism
  • Community Building and Narrative
  • Media Representation of Conflicts
  • Oral History and Digitalisation

Photo taken by Peter Marlow