NORMEMO autumn 2022 guest lecture: Deterrence by Other Means: The International Politics of Domestic Memory Laws

Maria Mälksoo: Deterrence by Other Means. The International Politics of Domestic Memory Laws



“Die, Dog”. Edward von Lõngus graffiti in Palamuse, Estonia. Photo: private archive of Maria Mälksoo.

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The lecture 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.


Maria Mälksoo is Senior Researcher at the Centre for Military Studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. Mälksoo’s research foci are in Critical Security Studies (ontological security, securitization of historical memory, hybrid warfare); political anthropology (liminality, rituals), and the social study of deterrence (with a focus on NATO’s eastern flank). Dr Mälksoo is the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council's Consolidator Grant RITUAL DETERRENCE (2022-2027) and leads the Baltic chapter of the collaborative MEMOCRACY project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (2021-2024). Besides numerous academic and popular articles, she is the author of The Politics of Becoming European: A Study of Polish and Baltic Post-Cold War Security Imaginaries (Routledge, 2010); a co-author of Remembering Katyn (Polity, 2012); an editor of the JIRD Special Issue “Uses of ‘the East’ in International Studies: provincializing IR from Central and Eastern Europe” (2022) and the Handbook on the Politics of Memory (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2023).

Når: 10.11.22 kl 12.15–14.00
Hvor: Zoom / Aase Hiorth Lervik room, Breiviklia, UiT
Sted: Tromsø
Målgruppe: Studenter, Gjester / eksterne, Enhet, Ansatte
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