Colloquium: Historicising Nostalgia

  • Date: Feb 12, 2019
  • Time: 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Tobias Becker
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
  • Room: Small Conference Room
  • Host: Center for the History of Emotions
  • Contact:

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its winter semester 2018/2019 colloquium:

Tobias Becker, German Historical Institute, London

Historicising Nostalgia

How to theorize and historicize nostalgia? The “sentimental yearning for the past”, as dictionaries define the term, obviously is both about remembering and about feeling, the bittersweet emotion, painful and pleasurable at the same time, that accompanies it. Yet, neither memory studies nor the history of emotions so far had much to say about nostalgia. This may have to do with the ideologically charged nature of the term. Often nostalgia is not a self-description but used pejoratively to describe others as backward-looking or stuck in the past. This not only makes it hard to use it as an analytical concept, it makes it more difficult to research nostalgia. In his talk, Tobias Becker wants to explore these problems and difficulties as well as possible solutions to them, after first examining how the term and its meanings have changed over time and how it has been conceptualized by historians and researchers from other disciplines. Becker will be arguing that nostalgia is often used too carelessly and that we need to think more clearly about how the roles emotions play in our engagement with the past.

Tobias Becker is a Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where he works on the “nostalgia wave” since the 1970s. He also teaches history at University College London. He has published widely on theatre, the subject of his PhD, popular culture and urban history. As part of his new project, he has edited a “Forum on Nostalgia” in History and Theory, to which he contributed the article “The Meanings of Nostalgia: Genealogy and Critique,” History and Theory 57 (2018), No. 2, 234-250. The project is accompanied by the blog “Homesick for Yesterday” (

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