During the past two decades memory research has established itself as an exemplary interdisciplinary research effort at the interface of the natural sciences and the humanities. Its themes and findings have moved beyond the confines of specialist discussions in particular disciplines to come into the spotlight of public debate.
In the humanities the heightened interest in memory research derives from the accelerated dynamics of change in modern societies, which make it necessary to reaffirm identities constantly through reference to the past and to stores of memories.
In the neurosciences the advent of neuroimaging techniques has accelerated memory research by providing a wealth of clinical and experimental results. These results have led researchers to abandon topological storage models of the brain, to distinguish several separate memory systems and to adopt a more dynamic and flexible approach to modeling human memory. At the same time these very advances have demonstrated the inherent limitations of a single-discipline approach to memory research.
Interdisciplinary memory research is not just necessary from the standpoint of scientific inquiry. In view of the foreseeable demographic shift in aging modern societies, interdisciplinary memory research is also a social necessity. In the decades to come memory-related health problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will increase markedly.
The altered demographic structure of society will not only pose a medical challenge, but a challenge of sociological and economic dimensions as well. The Center for Interdisciplinary Memory Research is dedicated to meeting these challenges through interdisciplinary research. The Center is currently engaged in research on the formation of human memory, on the transmission of memories from one generation to the next, on the long-term effects of collective experiences of violence and on interdisciplinary methodologies.
The second key area of research is the study of collective violence, which is also interdisciplinary and comparative. This focuses on the conditions and dynamics that occur in the context of war, mass murder, terrorism, violent societies, etc.
It is the first European research institute dedicated exclusively to the area of memory research. With its international and interdisciplinary orientation it represents an exemplary center of excellence for basic and applied research in the humanities.