The memories of others: How leaders import collective memories in political speech

Tracy Adams, Christian Baden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Owing to the increasing presence of globalized communication and the accelerated exchange of cultural products, there is a consensus that collective memories transcend their original contexts. We investigate how imported memories are recruited in political speech to render meaning relevant to domestic publics. Based on a qualitative comparative long-term analysis of speeches held by heads of state in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Germany (1945–2018), we identify three ways in which memories are imported into new settings. Findings show that memories are not imported as meaningful wholes, but arranged selectively and recontextualized, confining their role to supporting predetermined domestic agendas. While the progressing transnationalization may have expanded the repertoire of memories available for public sense-making, the use of memories remains firmly rooted within the national context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-330
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Sociology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Boundaries
  • collective memory
  • memories of others
  • political speech
  • transnationalization

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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