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Thesis defence

The Politics of Commemoration and Decommemoration

Add to calendar 2023-06-12 11:15 2023-06-12 13:15 Europe/Rome The Politics of Commemoration and Decommemoration Seminar room 2 Badia Fiesolana YYYY-MM-DD


12 June 2023

11:15 - 13:15 CEST


Seminar room 2

Badia Fiesolana

PhD thesis defence by Ana Ruipérez Núñez

In recent years, we have seen an increase in public discussions regarding how democracies should deal with, and celebrate, their past. This thesis studies how public commemorations of the past are used by elites and citizens, and how they influence attitudes and behaviour. At the elite level, I argue that political leaders have an interest in disseminating their preferred narrative for political gains. At the citizen level, I argue that attitudes, emotions and behaviours are influenced by exposure to memory objects, which citizens also use to make inferences that shape their beliefs about the world. I test these arguments using state-of-the-art causal inference methods. Using a regression discontinuity, Paper 1 finds that public spaces do not simply follow citizens’ preferences. Instead, political elites manipulate public commemorations to reflect their ideological preferences. Paper 2 uses an experiment to check how places of memory affect citizens. Using a video of an unnamed American town, the experiment manipulates whether individuals are exposed or not the town's Confederate commemorations. The findings show that citizens use the commemorations to infer information about the residents and elites of that town, and that those monuments and place names affect their emotions, attitudes, and behaviour. Finally, Paper 3 uses a different experiment to test whether exposure to monuments can foster tolerance. The treatment exposes respondents to German Stolpersteine placed on the ground, close to the residence of victims of the Nazi regime. The findings show that even these small monuments can significantly affect emotions. Although results are mixed, the stones may be effective in promoting the inclusion of groups that face the most intolerance, but may also cause backlash within some groups. These findings show that public commemorations condition how individuals make up their minds about social and political groups, and that they are used strategically by elites.

Ana Ruipérez is a PhD candidate in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute. Her work focuses on the political dynamics around contested places of memory, and the effect of memory objects on political attitudes and behaviours. Prior to the EUI, Ana received an MA on Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Ellen M. Immergut (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)

Irene Martín Cortés (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Miguel Pereira (London School of Economics and Political Science)


Prof. Elias Dinas (EUI)

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