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Pia Mecklenfeld (Osnabrück)

Narrative Identity Theory Reconsidered – Mediation Of Cultural Memory Through Narrative

Narrative Identity Theory Reconsidered – Mediation Of Cultural Memory Through Narrative
Alongside concepts of collective or cultural memory and identity, theories of narrative identity have emerged noticeably during the course of last thirty years and have attracted increasing interest in both the humanities and cognitive psychology ever since. By underlining the intersections of Ricoeur's narrative identity theory, Assmann's concept of collective and cultural memory and Brockmeier's model of narrative integration, this paper discusses the importance and mechanics of narrative for both the construction and mediation of cultural memory and identity. Taking the example of the so-called Kreuzkampf (crucifix struggle), a social movement in the region of Oldenburger Münsterland against the education policy of the Nazis in 1936, Brockmeier's concept of narrative integration is reconsidered. Hence, the paper suggests that cultural and communicative memory are both mediated through narrative and can be grasped as a process of narrative themselves.

1 Introduction

The importance of memory and remembrance for the construction of identity has attracted an enormous amount of attention in both psychology and the humanities since the 1980s. Ever since, studies on the interplay between identity and memory have become the central point in fields of cultural studies, narrative and cognitive psychology (Nora 1984; Assmann 1995; Ricoeur 1984; Straub 1998; Brockmeier 1999). While approaches in cognitive psychology rather point to the particularities of personal memory, concepts of collective and cultural remembrance and memory tend to be prominent in cultural studies (Neumann 2005: 150).

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Based on the new academic interest in the interplay between personal and cultural identity and memory, "narrative is gradually coming to be comprehended as the ground in which, the relations through which and the vehicle by which humans develop knowledge of themselves and the world they inhabit" (Rankin 2002: 1). Most prominent in literary theory, Paul Ricoeur has put forward the idea that narrative is both the key to human identity and to human understanding of time (Ricoeur 1984/1991).

Along with theories of personal narrative identity, concepts of collective or cultural memory and identity have emerged noticeably in the last century. Despite being different not only with regard to terms such as mémoire collective (Halbwachs 1925), lieux de mémoire (Nora 1984) or kulturelles Gedächtnis (Assmann 1995), all theories agree on the fundamental correlation between collective or cultural memory and remembrance and the construction of personal identity. Exceeding the boundaries of the German scientific discourse, Jan Assmann's widely popular concept of communicative and cultural memory has triggered the significance of studies on memory in the field of cultural studies since its introduction at the end of the 1980s (Neumann 2005: 159).

Elaborating on the work of Ricoeur and Assmann, Jens Brockmeier has tried to connect the polarity of individual (Ricoeur) and social memory (Assmann) by opting for a comprehensive approach on narrative instead. Most importantly, he argues that narrative mechanics are used within the space of human memory because of their potential to organize temporally multi-layered events and experiences. Thus, Brockmeier suggests the idea of a mnemonic system in which various levels of time are continuously recombined through narrative. Furthermore, he emphasizes that narrative is not only a significant integrating power within this mnemonic system of culture but that this integration works on a linguistic, semiotic and performative level of narrative. According to Brockmeier, narrative has to be understood as "a particular synthesis of distinct elements" (Brockmeier 2002: 36).

By underlining the intersections of Ricoeur's narrative identity theory, Assmann's concept of collective and cultural memory and Brockmeier's model of narrative integration, this paper will discuss the importance and mechanics of narrative with regard to cultural memory and identity. Using the example of the so-called Kreuzkampf (crucifix struggle), a social movement in the region of Oldenburger Münsterland against the education policy of the Nazis in 1936, Brockmeier's concept of narrative integration will be reconsidered.

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Consequently, the paper will discuss how cultural and collective memory are mediated through narrative.

2 Narrative and personal identity theories: Ricoeur and Brockmeier

Approaches to the connection between memory and identity in the field of narrative psychology have not only examined the purpose of remembering, but have also questioned the specific connections of the remembered (Neumann 2005: 155). According to exponents of narrative identity theories (Ricoeur 1991, Straub 1998, Brockmeier 2002), narratives work as the fundamental components of identity(-building) as they are constitutive of biographical continuity. Essentially, narratives are understood to offer not only pragmatic or aesthetic functions, but are regarded to be the fundamental mean in the shaping of human identity (Neumann 2005: 155). In this way, narratives and human identity are understood to be symbiotic as human identity is only graspable by means of narration (Brockmeier 2002: 22). Consequently, most of the concepts on narrative identity agree on the fact that the key function of narrative is to put events in a temporal and logical coherence (Neumann 2005: 156). Ricoeur states:

A story is made out of events to the extent that plot makes events into a story. The plot, therefore, places us at the crossing point of temporality and narrativity: to be historical, an event must be more than a singular occurrence, a unique happening. It receives its definition from its contribution to the development of a plot (Ricoeur 1980: 171).

Accordingly, narration does not only put single events into a relationship of continuity and coherence but, at the same time, makes the events themselves plausible. Thus, narratives suggest a reasonable development and connection between past, present and future events. To put this into the words of Ricoeur:

Every narrative combines two dimensions in various proportions, one chronological and the other nonchronological. The first may be called the episodic dimension, which characterizes the story as made out of events. The second is the configurational dimension, according to which the plot construes significant wholes out of scattered events (Ricoeur 1980: 178)

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Consequently, "to tell and to follow a story is already to reflect upon events in order to encompass them in successive wholes" (Ricoeur 1980: 178). Thus, Ricoeur alludes to the central aspect of his work. Most notably, Ricoeur influenced narrative theory by reworking Aristotle's theory of mimesis and suggesting a three-step concept (mimesis 1, mimesis 2, mimesis 3) instead (Rankin 2002: 4).

Following the finding that every event "receives its definition from its contribution to the development of a plot" (Ricoeur 1980: 171), Ricoeur argues that, in order to be able to narrate, the world needs to be pre-understood with regard to its structures, temporal and symbolic features of action (Ricoeur 1984: 54-56). Consequently, Ricoeur suggests that in the stage of mimesis 1 the world is understood to be pre-narrative, or in the words of Ricoeur "prefigurated" (Ricoeur 1984: 54). Rankin concludes that "for Ricoeur all human experience is prefigured semantically and linguistically; we understand the semantics of action even before these actions are retold" (Rankin 2002: 4). Therefore, "Ricoeur suggests that human lived or social reality is mediated by symbolic representations, which are waiting for interpretation" (Rankin 2002: 4).

Following the stage of mimesis 1, the prefigured information is configured into narrative in the stage of mimesis 2 (Ricoeur 1984: 64-65). Consequently, "narrative does not emerge until pre-narrative linguistic and semantic understanding has been translated, or configured, by emplotment" (Rankin 2002: 4). In a last step, mimesis 3, the process of prefiguration and emplotment is completed, as the world is comprehended through the personal projections of the world one lives in (Ricoeur 1984: 77). However, "this mimetic representation is not ‘the world,’ nor an imitation of the world, but a new creation that allows us to comprehend the world" (Rankin 2002: 4).

Based on the findings of Ricoeur, Brockmeier's concept of narrative identity especially focuses on the significance of temporality in narratives for the mediation of personal and cultural identity. He argues that "the time modalities of past, present and future do not mark clear-cut distinctions" (Brockmeier 2002: 21). Hence, the formation of identity always involves the stage of memory which, according to Brockmeier, should be "conceive[d] [...] as a movement within a cultural discourse that continuously combines and fuses the now and then, and the here and there" (Brockmeier 2002: 21). Thus, the organization of memory is the key principle by which the narrative identity is constituted. Apparently, remembering and forgetting always precede biographical narrating.

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In the words of Brockmeier, "Selecting information, be it for encoding or retrieving, means rejecting and excluding other information - information deemed to be obscured, repressed or forgotten" (Brockmeier 2002: 22).

Given a selective preliminary stage of narration, it becomes evident „that human memorizing and remembering cannot be properly understood without taking into account the social functions it fulfills and the cultural web in which it is integrated" (Brockmeier 2002: 21). In much the same manner, Ricoeur has already argued before that „human lives become more readable when they are interpreted in function of the stories people tell about themselves" (Ricoeur 1991: 73).

Brockmeier points to two different influences on human memory and its construction and representation through narrative: On the one hand, he identifies socio-communicative „frames"1 (Brockmeier 2002: 23) which determine or at least influence the shape of memory in narratives. The theory underlying this claim is known as Conversational Remembering (Middleton/Edwards 1990; Hirst/Manier 1996, quoted in Neumann 2005: 157) and argues that the narrative representation of the personal past is determined by the particular conversational partner. Detailed research in social psychology on that issue even suggests that the socio-communicative frame of communication and narration does not only appear as an exterior mechanism of influence, but can be understood as an inherent feature of autobiographical memory itself (Hirst/Manier 1996: 287, qtd. in Neumann 2005: 157). On the other hand, Brockmeier puts emphasis on the significance of cultural belonging for identity negotiation (Goffmann 1959; Swann 1987) and the representation of memories through narration, respectively. Outlining the approach of Maurice Halbwachs, Brockmeier resumes that "it is not the individual mind that primarily organizes memory but shared cognitive structures or frames of memory that inhere in any social groupings" (Brockmeier 2002: 23). With regard to Brockmeier, Neumann underlines the finding that in particular literary forms and genres offer a wide range of socially accepted patterns (Deutungsmuster) for the interpretation of personal experiences and memories (Neumann 2005: 158). Without being explicitly mentioned by Neumann, Ricoeur has already argued in much the same manner in his theory of narrative identity in 1991:

Stories people tell about themselves […] are […] rendered more intelligible when they are applied to narrative models – plots – borrowed from history and fiction [… and narrative ...] borrows from history as much as fiction making the life story a fictive history or, if you prefer, an historical fiction comparable to those biographies of great men where both history and fiction are found blended together (Ricoeur 1991: 73).

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Ricoeur's finding also resonates in the concept of Brockmeier. With reference to Halbwachs, Brockmeier claims that "because human individuals are always social beings, they remember and forget according to the memory frames and practices of the groups of which they are members" (Brockmeier 2002: 23). Consequently, the construction of the personal narrative identity and memory is always overlapped by socio-cultural influences on a supra-individual level of social groupings or societies.

3 Assmann's concept of Collective and Cultural Memory

Already four years before the publication of his extensive study on cultural memory (1992), Jan Assmann suggested a concept on Collective Memory and Cultural Identity in 1988. Extending the concept of Maurice Halbwachs (1925), Jan Assmann does not only elaborate on a collective memory of social groupings, but distinguishes the mémoire collective (Halbwachs) between "communicative or everyday memory" (Assmann 1995: 126) and cultural memory (Assmann 1995: 126). Quoting his wife Aleida, Jan Assmann states that "the term communicative memory was introduced in order to delineate the difference between Halbwachs' concept of collective memory and [his] understanding of cultural memory" (Assmann 2008: 110). Accordingly, "the concept of communicative memory includes those varieties of collective memory that are based exclusively on everyday communications" (Assmann 1995: 126). In terms of content, communicative memory covers "history in the frame of autobiographical memory, [and the] recent past" (Assmann 2008: 117). Consequently, the content of such communicative memory becomes visible in forms of "informal traditions and genres of everyday communication" (Assmann 2008: 117) mediated through "living, embodied memory, communication in vernacular language" (Assmann 2008: 117). Thus, communicative memory is "non-institutional, it is not supported by any institutions of learning, transmission and interpretation; it is not cultivated by specialists and it is not summoned or celebrated on special occasions; it is not formalized and stabilized by any forms of material symbolization" (Assmann 2008: 111). Instead, communicative memory "lives in everyday interaction and communication and, for this very reason, has only a limited time depth which normally reaches no farther back than eighty years, the time span of three interacting generations" (Assmann 2008: 111).

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Drawing especially from the limited time span of communicative memory, Assmann develops his distinction in mediation between communicative and cultural memory. Supported by Jan Vansina's research on oral societies in Africa, Assmann emphasizes "that the recent past, which looms large in interactive communication, recedes, as time goes by, more and more into the background" (Assmann 2008: 112). However, he remarks that in Africa's oral societies information "for the most remote past […] dealing with traditions about the origin of the world and the early history of the tribe […] is not committed to everyday communication but intensely formalized and institutionalized" (Assmann 2008: 112). Hence, he proposes to call this information cultural memory which "exists in forms of narratives, songs, dances, rituals, masks, and symbols" (Assmann 2008: 112). According to Assmann, these observations also apply to literate societies in which "the past is not preserved as such but is cast in symbols as they are represented in oral myths or in writings, performed in feasts" (Assmann 2008: 113) and "mediated in texts, icons, dances rituals, and performances of all kinds; "classical" or otherwise formalized language(s)" (Assmann 2008: 117).

However, Assmann underlines that the distinction between communicative and collective memory may look "like a structure but it works more as a dynamic, creating tension and transistion between the various poles, […] especially with respect to the relation of memory and identity" (Assmann 2008: 113). Apparently, "individuals possess various identities according to the various groups, communities, belief systems, political systems etc. to which they belong" (Assmann 2008: 113). According to Assmann, this system of belonging is equally represented in their communicative and cultural memory as collective memories (Assmann 2008: 113). Assmann concludes that social groupings are always "formed and cohere by the dynamics of association and dissociation which is always loaded (to varying degrees) with affection" (Assmann 2008: 114). Since "these 'affective ties' lend memories their special intensity […] remembering [can be understood as] a realization of belonging, even a social obligation. One has to remember in order to belong" (Assmann 2008: 114). In this sense, the process of belonging emphasizes that "memory is knowledge with an identity-index" (Assmann 2008: 114). Therefore, collective memory can be understood as "knowledge about oneself" (Assmann 2008: 114) as well, meaning "one's own diachronic identity, be it as an individual or as a member of a familiy, a generation, a community, a nation, or a cultural and religious tradition" (Assmann 2008: 114).

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In addition, "the difference between communicative and cultural memory expresses itself also in the social dimension, in the structure of participation" (Assmann 2008: 114). Accordingly, cultural memory is much more institutionalized than communicative memory (Assmann 2008: 114). While "there is no specialist of informal, communicative memory […] the participation of a group in cultural memory, by contrast, is highly differentiated" (Assmann 2008: 114). The existence of what Assmann calls carriers of memory, persons such as "priests, teachers, artists, clerks, scholars" (Assmann 2008: 114), demonstrates not only the specialization of cultural memory but also underlines the fact that "the participation structure of cultural memory has an inherent tendency to elitism" (Assmann 2008: 116). Assmann points out that some participants in cultural memory "are almost forced into participation and have to prove their degree of admittance [e.g.] by formal exams [… while] others remain systematically excluded from this 'distinguished' knowledge" (Assmann 2008: 116). Since the participation in collective or cultural knowledge is understood as a prerequisite for the construction of collective or cultural memory (Assmann 2008: 114), elitism in the participation structure of knowledge can lead to elitism in or exclusion from collective or cultural memory as well. Assmann claims, that, at least when it comes to exclusion from knowledge due to language, "modern societies tend to diversify this binary structure by introducing more linguistic varieties according to the multiplication of cultural media such as film, broadcasting, and television (Assmann 2008: 116-117).

Despite the allegedly clear distinction between communicative and cultural memory, Assmann stresses that "transistions and transformations account for the dynamics of cultural memory" (Assmann 2008: 117). One the one hand "the transistion from autobiographical and communicative memory into cultural memory" (Assmann 2008: 117) is of "structural significance" (Assmann 2008: 117) and on the other hand "within cultural memory, the move from the […] periphery into the center […] presuppose[s] structural boundaries which are to be crossed" (Assmann 2008: 117).

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4 The Kreuzkampf: mediation of Collective and Cultural Memory through narrative

4.1 Brockmeier's model of Narrative Integration

With his concept of cultural memory, Assmann argues that in literate societies the past is "mediated in texts, icons, dances rituals, and performances of all kinds; "classical" or otherwise formalized language(s)" (Assmann 2008: 117). For in oral societies, the mediation of cultural knowledge and consequently memory by the so-called carriers "insists on verbatim transmission […] human memory is used as a 'database' in a sense approaching the use of writing" (Assmann 2008: 114). Effectively, "a fixed text is verbally 'written' into highly specialized and trained memory of these specialists […] typically […] the case when ritual knowledge is at stake and where a ritual must follow a 'script', even if this script is not laid down in writing" (Assmann 2008: 115). Without emphasizing it explicitly here, Assmann points to an important function of narrative in the context of mediation of cultural memory. As Brockmeier highlighted "narrative is not just one, even if basic, communicative and cognitive register among others" (Brockmeier 2002: 28). Consequently, narratives do not work on equal footing with other forms of mediations of cultural memory. Instead, "insofar as the emergence of cultural memory, that is, historical consciousness, is concerned, narrative is essential in connecting other forms of discourse and symbolic mediation, and integrating them into the symbolic space of a culture" (Brockmeier 2002: 28).

For Brockmeier, however, "a narrative is every text that tells a story, while a text is every meaningfully organized sign system, be it an opera score, an advertisement or a wedding ceremony" (Brockmeier 2002: 32). In order to support his point and to stress how his model of narrative integration works, Brockmeier "distinguish[es] three orders of narrative (which correspond to three forms of narrative integration)" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). Using the the Berlin Memorial to the 1933 Book burning by Micha Ullmann2 as an example of cultural memory mediated through narrative, Brockmeier "outline[s] narrative, first, as a linguistic order, second, as a semiotic order, and, third, as a discursive or performative order" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). Accordingly, Brockmeier complements Assmann's concept of cultural memory on the one hand as he proposes how narrative works against the backdrop of the mediation of cultural memory.

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On the other hand, he deepens Ricoeur's theory of emplotment as he suggests that "narrative, organized in linguistic, semiotic, and discursive or performative order, not only emplots "complex constructions of meanings […] in the mnemonic system of a culture" (Brockmeier 2002: 36) but also argues "that narrative is a particular synthesis of distinct elements" (Brockmeier 2002: 36).

Labelled with the term linguistic order, Brockmeier refers to a mediation, be it oral or written, of a narrative of cultural memory (Brockmeier 2002: 33). With his example of the Berlin Memorial to the 1933 Book burning, the linguistic order involves the elements of "scene, agent, action, intentionality, predicament [and], solution" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). As an example, telling the story of the Berlin Memorial, Brockmeier describes the "scene (the square and its architecture) and its (historical and political) background […], present[s] the agent of the narrative (the artist), his action (the installation of a memorial), his intentions and goals (to create, exactly at this site, a public forum of remembrance of the book burning in 1933)" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). In addition, narrative as a form of linguistic order also includes "another element of what narrative theorists regard to be a classical narrative framework: some trouble or a predicament [...] to which the story offers, in one or another way, a solution" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). In case of the Berlin Memorial, "e.g. the idea that the artist possibly wanted not to fill a void but rather to create an awareness of its presence as an irreversible historical fact" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). As Brockmeier argues, the interaction of scene, agent, action, intentionality, predicament and, solution constitutes "a complex plot" (Brockmeier 2002: 33). In this case plot refers to the fact that, in contrast to other forms of human thought, narrative is capable of integrating different levels of narrative and historical time (Brockmeier 2002: 33-34) covering e.g. the year 1933 itself, the National Socialist period and the time following, the time of the construction as well as the time in which the text about the memorial is written or told and read or listened to (Brockmeier 2002: 34). Based on his analysis of the Berlin memorial, Brockmeier claims that "narative [...] is not only the most adequate form for our most intricate constructions of temporality (such as simultaneous scenarios of diverse time structures), it is the only form in which they can be communicated and integrated in our social life" (Brockmeier 2002: 34).

Beyond the linguistic order, Brockmeier suggests "that the material installation itself can be seen, or read, as a narrative text. What comes into view, in this way, is narrative as a particular sign system, a semiotic order" (Brockmeier 2002: 34).

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Accordingly, Brockmeier claims that "to a certain degree, the story is independent from the media in or through which it is told" (Brockmeier 2002: 34). With regard to the example of the Berlin memorial on Bebel square, a detailed understanding of its narrative semiotic process does not only imply the memorial and its narrative structure itself but also its entangled interaction with the architectural and historical surrounding at Bebel square. As Brockmeier puts it, cultural memory is mediated through narrative, resp. the memorial, with both a spatial and temporal dimension (Brockmeier 2002: 34). Consequently, the memorial itself can only be grasped as "a materialized narrative" (Brockmeier 2002: 34) if it is understood as a response or "commentary on a given mnemonic system, a commentary that by its sheer existence in this place has already changed this very system" (Brockmeier 2002: 35), a "counter-narrative" (Brockmeier 2002: 34) so to speak.

The reciprocal character of the materialized narrative with its surrounding indicates a further dimension of narrativity according to Brockmeier: "Narrative as a performative or discursive order" (Brockmeier 2002: 35). Along with other authors (Bamberg 1997; Edwards 1997, Rankin 2002), Brockmeier highlights "that narrative as a form of communication and symbolic mediation, is not only a product, a story, but also a process, a telling; it is not only an account of an action but an action itself, not only a structure of meaning but also a performance of meaning" (Brockmeier 2002: 34). Applied to the example of the memorial to the 1933 book burning, the processual or discursive character of narrative does not get evident to the degree that the memorial just narrates the events of 1933. Instead, the memorial is embedded in a historical (and cultural) context, thus it is contextualized so that the impact of the narrative on and for the cultural memory does not derive from the historical events as such but from "the discursive practices of their presentation" (Brockmeier 2002: 35). In this case, the location of the memorial against the background of Berlin's Bebel square emphasizes that linguistic, semiotic and performative order are deeply interwoven. Obviously, the existence of all three dimensions of narrative at the same time, "evoke[s] complex constructions of meanings that would not exist independently of the narrative synthesis" (Brockmeier 2002: 36) Thus, the memorial could not work as an "integrating force in the mnemonic system of a culture" (Brockmeier 2002: 36) if one of the dimensions was missing.

Consequently, Brockmeier's analysis with regard to the memorial on Bebel square demonstrates the fact that the memorial as narrative constantly triggers and blends different spheres of cultural memory, different levels of time and space, past, present and future into a present so-called mnemonic system (Brockmeier 2002: 37).

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For Brockmeier then, narrative plays a crucial role for cultural memory because of its "multifunctional nature […], the fact that narrative is capable of playing a number of different (cognitive, social and emotive) roles at the same time" (Brockmeier 2002: 27). With regard to the theory of narrative identity put forward by Ricoeur, Brockmeier argues that "narrative not only emplots, on all three levels [linguistically, semiotically and performatively] diverse elements into a whole; [instead] it also interweaves, at the same time, these three orders, fusing quite diverse forms of discourse and symbolic mediation" (Brockmeier 2002: 38) of cultural memory.

4.2 Historical preliminaries and the events of the Kreuzkampf in 1936

The term Kreuzkampf (crucifix struggle) refers to the social movement in the region of Oldenburger Münsterland against the education policy of the Nazis in 1936 (Kuropka 1987).

Bought by the Bishop of Münster in 1252, the then called county "Ravensberg-Vechta" was integrated into the Catholic diocese of Münster at that time. As a result of the war between Prussia and Austria against the revolutionary France, however, Vechta and the district of Cloppenburg became a political part of the protestant Oldenburg grand duchy in 1803 whereas both districts stayed within the Catholic diocese of Münster on the level of ecclesiastical administration. Legally fixed in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation), the so- called Oldenburger Münsterland was established (Brosius 2006: 134). With the grand duchy of Oldenburg being deeply protestant, the region of Oldenburger Münsterland constitutes a Catholic enclave ever since. Due to the denominational contrast of the Catholic Oldenburger Münsterland with the other protestant regions of the grand duchy, the population in the districts of Vechta and Cloppenburg has developed a significant denominational identity and rootedness in Catholicism, which was and still is the basis for the Catholic milieu in this region. Although faced with political trends such as nationalism, communism or liberalism, the identification of the Catholic population with its faith remained strong during the 19th and early 20th century and has shaped its self-concept ever since (Gelhaus 2001: 401-429).

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With the "seizure of power" by the Nazi party in 1933, the fact that the population was deeply rooted in Catholicism became politically relevant in the region again. Thus, a growing conflict of the Catholic population with the Nazi resulted from the political and ideological penetration by the NSDAP in all terms of public life, let alone the dissolution of the Zentrum party as the basis for political Catholicism in July 1933 (Gelhaus 2001: 401). Most notably, the conflict of regional Catholicism and the Nazis' claim to power emerged in the field of education policy and became literally apparent in April 1933 when Heinz Spangemacher, Secretary of Education and Church in Oldenburg, claimed that school had to be unconditionally national socialist (Willenborg 1986). Indeed, the national socialist policy of deconfessionalisation was impeded as denominational education and schools were explicitly enshrined in the Oldenburg school law of 1855 and in the Reichskonkordat between the Holy See and National Socialist Germany of 1933. However, a new school law which came into effect in August 1936, abolished the right of the Roman Catholic Church to supervise religious education in schools, a right which was guaranteed in the Reichskonkordat three years before (Willenborg 1999: 35). The restriction of religious and clerical influence on education subsequently provoked massive civil unrest and beyond that protest on the part of the episcopal vicar in Vechta as well (Willenborg 1999: 35).

Despite a widespread movement of protest among the population, Julius Pauly, successor to Heinz Spangemacher, issued the so-called Kreuzerlass (crucifix decree) on November, 4th 1936. According to the decree, the display of any religious symbol was no longer allowed in any public building such as schools in the district of Oldenburg (Kuropka 1987: 416). With the Oldenburger Münsterland being deeply Catholic, the ban on the crucifix instantly led to first reactions to the decree on behalf of the episcopal vicar Vorwerk. Vorwerk drafted a statement (the so called Kanzelerklärung) that was to be promulgated in all churches in Oldenburger Münsterland on the following Sunday. He stated that "every attack on the crucifix is to be understood as an attack on Christianity itself" (trans. of Vorwerk as qtd. in Kuropka 1987: 418). Additionally, Vorwerk called for a defense of the existence of the crucifix in school. Attached to the statement by Vorwerk, a pastoral letter by the Bishop of Cologne condemned the Nazi policy.

In spite of the fact that Carl Röver, Reichsstatthalter (Imperial Governor) for Oldenburg and Bremen, tried to appease the incensed population by publicly guaranteeing religious freedom in Nazi Germany, the protest among the Catholics in the region against the Nazi policy increased drastically in the following days (Heinrich Hachmöller 1987: 143).

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Following the highly critical sermon of Father Franz Uptmoor on occasion of the Day of Prayer on Repentance in the village of Sevelten a few days later, lighted cruxifixes were installed on the church towers of the region (Göken 1947: 106). Franz Uptmoor urgently appealed to the population's identification with the Catholic faith and stated that the Catholic population would fight for the symbol of Christianity, namely the crucifix (Kuropka 1987: 421). Eventually, the tremendous protest of the Catholic population against the decree culminated in a solid resistance against the Nazi policy. Following a gathering of about 12,000 people on November 25th, 1936 in Cloppenburg's Münsterlandhalle where delegates from all communities of the region decisively advocated the existence of the crucifix in school, the "Gauleitung" (administrative head of a regional district within the NSDAP) was compelled to withdraw the decree on November 26th, 1936.

Already a few months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, a biannual pilgrimage in the village of Bethen was initiated in order to commemorate the events of fall 1936. Beyond that, a monument commemorating the Kreuzkampf was installed in Cloppenburg in November 1961 (Ulrike Hachmöller 1987: 388). Ever since the end of the Second World War, the crucifix struggle is classified to be one of the only few successful popular movements against Nazi policies during the time of the Nazi regime (Göken 1947: 4). Following the end of Nazi Germany, the remembrance of the Kreuzkampf has become a fundamental part within the history of Lower Saxony (Wulff 2010: 4) and has turned out to be an historical reference point for the self-identity of the Catholic population in the region of Oldenburger Münsterland (Ulrike Hachmöller 1987: 396).

4.3 The Kreuzkampf as narrative: Brockmeier reconsidered

When Aygül Özkan, social minister-designate in Lower Saxony at that time, called for a ban on crucifixes in public schools in April 2010 in order to create a neutral space of education, she caused massive controversy in both her Christian party CDU and among the Catholic population in Lower Saxony. After stating that Christian symbols should be banned in public schools in a interview for Focus just a week before her swearing-in, Christian Wulff, Bundespräsident nominee and the state's governor then, even felt the need to distance himself from the statements of Özkan in reaction to the tremendous controversy caused by the minister-to-be (Wulff 2010: 4). Eventually, Özkan apologized for her statements before she was sworn into office at the end of April 2010 (Ward 2010).

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A few weeks later, Christian Wulff commented on the controversy in a interview for the weekly newspaper ZEIT again and stressed that he "cannot expect someone, having been raised in Hamburg, to know every peculiarity of the history of Lower Saxony, for example the crucifix struggle in the Catholic region of Oldenburger Münsterland" (trans. of Wulff 2010: 4). Apparently, the massive controversy evoked by Özkan's statements just revealed the fact that the memory of the crucifix struggle and the belonging of the crucifix in school are deeply connected to the self-identity of the Catholic population in Lower Saxony and in particular of the Catholic population in the region of Oldenburger Münsterland.

By dealing with approaches to narrative identity by theorists such as Ricoeur's three-stage mimesis and Assmann's concept of cultural memory, Brockmeier argues that memory practices are nothing but "narrative practices or, at least, intermingled with and surrounded by them" (Brockmeier 2002: 27). Brockmeier underlines that "a narrative is every text that tells a story, while a text is every meaningfully organized sign system, be it an opera score, an advertisement or a wedding ceremony" (Brockmeier 2002: 32). Thus, he suggests that historical events, experiences and corresponding monuments merge into a present system of memory in which past, present and future are constantly rearranged. According to the suggestion by Brockmeier, narrative works as an "integrating force" (Brockmeier 2002: 33) within this "mnemonic system" (Brockmeier 2002: 33) through linguistic, semiotic, discursive or performative means (Brockmeier 2002: 33) and in a second step "interweaves [...] these three orders (Brockmeier 2002: 38). However, the analysis of the Kreuzkampf as a narrative mediating cultural memory suggests a specification of Brockmeier's theory with regard to the semiotic order of narrative (Brockmeier 2002: 36).

The fact that Christian Wulff relates the negative reactions to Özkan's statement to the historical events of the Crucifix struggle emphasizes that the memory of the Kreuzkampf had evoked a "process in which the past becomes the subject of present reflection and reconstruction" (Brockmeier 2002: 33) concerning the identity of the Catholic population in Lower Saxony. With regard to the theory of Brockmeier, Özkan thus denied or at least neglected the integrating force of the narrative and the memory of the Kreuzkampf. Back in 1936, the population of southern Oldenburg fought for the crucifix (action) in school (scene) in order to suppress the influence of the Nazis on school (intention/goal). Özkan reversed the events and became a negative agent of the narrative Kreuzkampf as she called for the ban (action) on the crucifix in school (scene).

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Even though she probably intended to create a neutral space for education (intention/goal) in order to evoke awareness for the blending of state and religion in school rather than a space for ideological indoctrination, the similarities to the events of 1936 regarding its linguistic order evoked a feeling of attack on the Catholic communities in Lower Saxony and especially in southern Oldenburg.

In contrast to Brockmeier's line of argument, the crucifix struggle works as narrative itself and is not bound to a single memorial, even though a memorial is installed in the city of Cloppenburg. In fact, the crucifix struggle as narrative mediates the self-concept of the Catholic population as it can be viewed as a double narrative so to speak. The power of the Kreuzkampf as narrative ultimately lies in the mechanics that not only the memory of the events of fall 1936 construct or at least influence the identity of the Catholic population in Oldenburger Münsterland. The Kreuzkampf rather works as an integrating force in the mnemonic system of the region because the crucifix itself is more than a subordinated semiotic aspect of the narrative Kreuzkampf but constitutes a narrative of inestimable und supra-individual integrating power itself. Apparently, already the Nazis intended to abolish the crucifix in school as they recognized the enormous power of the crucifix as a means of social belonging within the Catholic communities in Lower Saxony. Consequently, the crucifix integrates different levels of narrative and historical time, even beyond the events of the crucifix struggle itself: the persecution of Jesus Christ, the resurrection, the history of Christianity, etc. With regard to the term used by Assmann, the crucifix does not participate within and shapes a cultural memory system based on a single material installation, such as the Berlin monument. Following "the two dimensions of the connective structure of cultural memory - spatial and temporal" (Brockmeier 2002: 34), the crucifix, being a material narrative, does not only respond to its particular spatial environment, namely a school, but is connected to a superordinated level of temporality in cultural memory istelf. Consequently, the tremendous power of the narrative Kreuzkampf as "activity" or "performance" (Brockmeier 2002: 35) in mediating cultural memory and belonging becomes evident in the notion that, in contrast to the line of argument by Brockmeier, the meaning of the crucifix would "exist independently of the narrative synthesis" (Brockmeier 2002: 36). Even outside school, the crucifix mediates a belonging to Christianity and its history and thereby creates a shared identity and memory spaces for those who identifiy themselves with the crucifix.

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Ultimately, the analysis of the crucifix struggle offers the possibility to combine the approaches on narrative identity theory put forward by Assmann and Brockmeier. Without pointing to Assmann directly, Brockmeier's theory of the performative order of narrative relates to the connection of memory and identity put forward by Assmann. The answer to the question why the statements of Özkan evoked a certain lack of understanding in Lower Saxony and in southern Oldenburg is deeply related to the identification with the crucifix and the experiences of the crucifix struggle. The population's fight for the crucifix back in 1936 and in 2010 highlights the distinctiveness of the Kreuzkampf as collective and cultural narrative. Even though there does exist a biannual pilgrimage and a monument commemorating the Kreuzkampf in Cloppenburg (Ulrike Hachmöller 1987: 388), the presence of the crucifix in everyday life, namely in school, mediates more than the collective identity of a region. Despite the fact that the memory still "lives in everyday interaction and communication" (Assmann 2008: 111), the crucifix is more than a means of communicative memory but works as narrative of both collective and cultural memory. Consequently, there is no need of "carriers of memory" (Assmann 2008: 114) mediating the self-identity of a region as the presence of the crucifix works as a carrier itself. Consequently, the Kreuzkampf as narrative mediates the collective memory of a region while the crucifix is both part of the narrative Kreuzkampf and works as a narrative mediating the cultural memory of Christianity as well. Even though the Catholic people in Oldenburger Münsterland indeed "possess various identities according to the various groups […] to which they belong" (Assmann 2008: 113), the crucifix struggle has proven that the crucifix does not only work as narrative mediating the collective memory of a limited community but can be understood as narrative mediating superordinated cultural memory as well. The collective memory of the people in southern Oldenburg is part of a cultural memory of Catholicism in general. However, the statements of Özkan have proven that "the participation structure of cultural memory has an inherent tendency to elitism" (Assmann 2008: 116). Indeed, the crucifix would also work as a narrative mediating cultural memory in cultural contexts other than school, however, the distinct power of the Kreuzkampf as narrative mediating collective memory only becomes relevant for those who participate in this distinct sphere of collective (Oldenburger Münsterland) and cultural memory (Catholicism/Christianity). Özkan, being Muslim, met with resistance as she obviously failed in proving her "degree of admittance" (Assmann 2008: 116) within both the Christian sphere of cultural memory, a sphere which seems to be present in her party CDU, and within the collective memory of Lower Saxony and southern Oldenburg as well.

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With regard to the semiotic order of narrative suggested by Brockmeier, it becomes evident that both the story of the Kreuzkampf and the crucifix itself can be understood as narrative. However, Brockmeier does not point to the fact that a certain double narrative is also inherent in his example of the memorial to the 1933 book burning as well. He states that "the 1933 book burning has become an emblematic scene that slipped into the collective picture memory of generations, not only of Germans" (Brockmeier 2002: 29). Consequently, he argues that the monument only then triggers the process where this scene becomes "the subject of present reflection and reconstruction" (Brockmeier 2002: 33) on a linguistic, semiotic and performative level. Similiarly to the connection of the Kreuzkampf and the crucifix as double narrative, the 1933 book burning works as narrative of cultural significance as well. The image of burning books also integrates different levels of narrative and historical time, even beyond the events and the context of 1933: the destruction of cultural identity and cultural knowledge, oppression, threat etc. However, the installation of the monument on Bebelplatz seems necessary: in contrast to the crucifix, which is still installed in Lower Saxony's schools, the 1933 book burning lacks the symbolic and material integration in everyday cultural or collective memory and thus, needs to be remembered actively. While the crucifix works as a material and concrete carrier of collective and cultural memory of the narrative of the Kreuzkampf, the 1933 book burning is, using the terms of Ricoeur, only "prefigurated" (Ricoeur 1984: 54) mentally. Consequently, the character of the 1933 book burning as narrative itself only emerges through a materialized and concrete carrier of the scene. Regardless of whether Günter Grass presents himself as "a writer from the country of book burning" (qtd. in Brockmeier 2002: 29) or whether a monument is installed on Bebelplatz, the power of a narrative as carrier of cultural memory seems to be dependent on a particular narrative carrier which can be a narrative as well.

Coming back to the statements of Aygül Özkan, it becomes apparent that she met with resistance not only because she obviously failed in proving her "degree of admittance" (Assmann 2008: 116) within the Christian sphere of cultural memory but because she intended to deprive the Catholic population of their particular carrier of memory. Notwithstanding the assumption that the narrative of the Kreuzkampf would have stayed "prefigurated" within the people's minds nonetheless, Özkan most importantly failed in recognizing that the collective memory of the Catholic population in Lower Saxony only becomes materialized through the installation of the crucifix.

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With regard to Brockmeier's theory of narrative as a particular sign system (semiotic order), the "material installation itself can [not only] be seen, or read, as a narrative text" (Brockmeier 2008: 34) but has to be understood as an integral and vital function of the collective or cultural memory it narrates itself.

5 Conclusion

In this paper it has been suggested that narrative can both function as a carrier of collective/cultural memory or can even constitute collective/cultural memory itself. Hence it becomes evident that, as suggested by Brockmeier, narratives work as integrating powers in the mnemonic system of a culture. Extending Ricoeur's theory of emplotment, narrative thus integrates and recombines distinct linguistic, semiotic and performative elements into a specific structure of meaning (Brockmeier 2002: 36).

The example of the crucifix struggle shows that cultural and communicative memory as defined by Assmann are both mediated through narrative and can be grasped as a process of narrative themselves. With her call for a ban on crucifixes in school, Aygül Özkan met with resistance because of the fact that she unwittingly tried to deprive the Catholic people of their material and concrete key to their collective memory, or in the words of Brockmeier "mnemonic system of culture" (Brockmeier 2002: 36). The Nazis apparently had been deeply aware of the integrating power of the crucifix. Hence, their attempt to abolish the crucifix from schools can be understood in accordance with their policy of deconfessionalisation. The Nazis tried to destroy the historically grown Catholic milieu in southern Oldenburg in order to effectively impose national socialist ideology and structures on the population. However, the resistance of the population and the eventual failure of the Nazi's policy proves the fact that the crucifix constructs social identity, represents collective belonging and eventually carries cultural memory. Therefore, today's remembrance of the crucifix struggle works both as a narrative process as well as the crucifix itself can be understood as narrative as well. The crucifix is the key to a sphere of cultural, or at least collective, memory of the people in southern Oldenburg. Consequently, a collective identity will constantly emerge and be recombined from the ongoing process of identification with the crucifix on the one hand, and the remembrance of the Kreuzkampf on the other hand.

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However, the example demonstrates that the narrative process can only leave the stage of prefiguration as long as the crucifix as narrative carrier is at public disposal. Thus the function of narrative as integrating force of cultural memory is always dependent on the existence of a culturally shared semiotic device, such as the crucifix, which however, can also be a narrative itself.


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1 Since its introduction by Fillmore (1968) and Minsky (1975), the term frames has been used extremely inconsistent within different academic fields. Brockmeier enlarges upon his understanding of frames as he argues that human beings are members of several social frames (Brockmeier 2002: 23). Within these various social frames according to which we remember, narratives can be understood as memory practices which "shape […] the temporal dimensions of human experience" (Brockmeier 2002: 27). Despite the fact that Brockmeier obviously understands frames from a perspective of both cultural studies and philosophy, his approach lacks a clear definition of the term in contrast to its use in other academic fields such as Cognitive Science, Linguistics or Literary Theory. A comparison of the different academic approaches to the term frames cannot be expounded under the scope of this paper. It gets evident, however, that Brockmeier's use of frames as an analytical tool within his approach to memory and narrative clashes with the polyseme character of the term. Therefore, Brockmeier's theory unintentionally sheds light upon the fact that a more consistent frame-theory is of crucial importance for the reciprocal understanding of frames from different academic perspectives.

2 The Berlin memorial to the 1933 Book burning by Micha Ullmann (1995) is installed in the middle of Bebelplatz, Berlin. The square is located in the historical center of Berlin, surrounded by historical buildings such as the National Opera, Hedwigs Cathedral, the former Royal Library and Humboldt University. Installed at precisely that location where the Nazis burnt approximately twenty thousand books by Jews, Socialists and Democrats (Brockmeier 2002: 28-29), the memorial is constructed as "an underground installation, a submerged, hermetically sealed chamber with a small transparent ceiling, like a window, flush with the level of the square" (Brockmeier 2002: 29). Even though the underground memorial is furnished with "shelves, sufficient for twenty thousand books, [the shelves] are empty" (Brockmeier 2002: 30). For Brockmeier "apparently this is what the memorial suggests: signs of absence, of something missing; ciphers of a void that cannot even be filled by memory; traces of an attempt of forgetting through extinction" (Brockmeier 2002: 30).