This invited lecture at the University of Tromsø investigates how memory laws that regulate the legitimate frames of remembering the past of righteous and perpetrators function as devices of deterrence in states’ (inter)national memory politics. I conceptualize mnemopolitical deterrence and assess the aims and sought effects of various memory laws in the Central and East European space.
Engaging deterrence scholarship in International Security Studies and legal studies, the lecture unfolds and contextualizes the international aims, the projected and (thus far) observable effects of the memory laws that criminalize, discipline and punish the accounts of the past deemed undesirable to a particular state identity in Russia, Poland and Ukraine. I argue that besides defining acceptable and (un)desirable boundaries of political subjectivities, punitive memory laws do performative work by signalling political intent to defend a particular “state’s story” of the past in the international sphere.
In their distinct ways, the memory laws of Russia, Poland and Ukraine have emerged as international, not just domestic memory-political dissuasion devices in the manifold contestations over the legitimate remembrance and “right” narratives of their respective nation’s role in the Second World War and/or the Holocaust. Mnemopolitical deterrence is illustrative of the ritual logic of action underpinning deterrence practices in state ontological security-seeking.