Geographies of Memory: Rituals, Places, Spaces, and Tourism

Based on a qualitative research approach, this long-term project first examined different case studies in France and Germany. In France, it was dedicated to the rituals of remembrance of World Wars I and II in Verdun and Normandy. In Germany, it investigated the perpetrator and victim sites of Vogelsang, Obersalzberg, and Dachau. More recently, the focus has been on a theoretical-conceptual approach to the thematic field of geographies of memory.

Commemorative Rituals and Places (France)
To this day, thousands of participants still come to the commemorations of the Battle of Verdun and the Allied Landings in Normandy, even though these two World War battles happened more than 100 and 70 years ago, respectively. The case studies were used to investigate on a theoretical level how different places – based on the spheres of ideology, belief, and knowledge – are generated in the collective remembrance of historical events. In addition, the project examined the significance the annual celebrations have for many people to this day. Here, the key to understanding lies in the (re)structuring of space and time: the former battlefields were designed as memorial sites, and people's everyday lives are structured by annually repeated official commemorative rituals. This interplay gives rise to orderly patterns that have been generated and reproduced since the end of the war, and that continue to give people a foothold in what they may see as an increasingly complex world today.

Sites of Perpetrators and Victims (Germany)
The second focus of the project was on the sites of perpetrators and victims in Germany. The directors of memorial sites and documentaries face a demanding challenge in dealing with the historical legacy of the Nazi era, but scholars also repeatedly attest to the difficult handling of relics from National Socialism in Germany. This applies in particular to so-called perpetrator sites (such as the former Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nuremberg) which have enriched the memorial landscape in Germany in addition to the victim sites (e.g., concentration camp memorials). This project examined the creation and visitation of perpetrator and victim sites in Germany using the example of Hitler's former second seat of government at Obersalzberg, the Ordensburg Vogelsang in the Eifel region, and the Dachau concentration camp memorial. This project’s research mainly focused on the following three questions: How were the sites designed as places of remembrance? Who visits the sites for what reasons and with what emotions and expectations? To what extent are the sites tourist attractions in the context of memorial tourism and/or dark tourism?

Conceptual Thoughts on Geographies of Memory
While previous projects of Geographies of Memory pursued a qualitative research approach, I am now dealing with the topic mainly on a theoretical-conceptual level. The goal is to write a textbook on the topic.


Maus, G. & Petermann, S. (2019): Erinnerungen, Spuren, Orte: Beiträge zur geographischen Erinnerungsforschung. In: Geographische Zeitschrift 107 (1): 2-12. DOI: 10.25162/gz-2019-0001

Petermann, S. (2014): Erinnern und Gedenken. In: Lossau, J. & Freytag, T. & Lippuner, R. (Hrsg.): Schlüsselbegriffe der Kultur- und Sozialgeographie. Stuttgart: 212-226. DOI: 10.36198/9783838538983

Petermann, S. (2012): "You get out of it what you put into" Nationalsozialistische Opfer- und Täterorte in Deutschland als Touristenorte? In: Steinecke, A. & Quack, H.-D. (Hrsg.): Dark Tourism. Faszination des Schreckens. Paderborner Geographische Studien zu Tourismusforschung und Destinationsmanagement. Paderborn: 63-80.

Petermann, S. (2011): Places and Spaces: The Remembrance of D-Day 1944 in Normandy. In: Meusburger, P. & Heffernan, M. & Wunder, E. (Hrsg.): Cultural Memories. Knowledge and Space 4. Heidelberg: 233-247. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-8945-8_14

Petermann, S. (2010): Orte des Triumphes oder Stätten der Versöhnung? Gedenkräume der Schlacht von Verdun. In: Defrane, C. & Kißener, M. & Nordblom, P. (Hrsg.): Wege der Verständigung zwischen Deutschen und Franzosen nach 1945. Zivilgesellschaftliche Annäherungen. Tübingen: 273-289.

Petermann, S. (2009): Globalisierung und politische Identität. Die Weltkriege als mythologischer Ursprung eines vereinten Europas? In: Kessler, J. & Steiner, C. (Hrsg): Facetten der Globalisierung: Zwischen Ökonomie, Politik und Kultur. Mainzer Kontaktstudium Geographie Bd. 12. Wiesbaden: 172-185. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-531-91703-0_8

Petermann, S. (2009): Verdun. Rituale machen Räume des Gedenkens. In: Berichte zur deutschen Landeskunde 83 (1): 27-45.

Petermann, S. (2008): Le devoir de mémoire: Wie aus der Stadt des heldenhaften Widerstandes die Hauptstadt des vereinten Europas wurde. In: Volksbund deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorgen e.V. (Hrsg.): Verdun. Ein Name schreibt Geschichte. Mainz: 87-97.

Petermann. S. (2007): Ritual and Place. Memorials of D-Day in Normandy. Geographische Rundschau/International Edition 3 (4): 48-54.

Petermann, S. (2007): Rituale machen Räume. Zum kollektiven Gedenken der Schlacht von Verdun und der Landung in der Normandie. Bielefeld. DOI: 10.14361/9783839407509