The introduction provides the historical and methodological framework for the book. It begins with a discussion of the power of certain memories to trouble received notions about the past and its relationship to the present. This is what I call the “historical uncanny.” The introduction then traces the history of eugenic thinking in Germany and Italy and sketches the post-war memory culture in these two countries. On the basis of Pierre Nora's work on sites of memory, the introduction elaborates an expanded definition of “site,” which builds on Michael Rothberg's notion of multidirectional memory and on Karen Barad's method of diffractive reading. In this way, the coexistence of two seemingly incompatible or contradictory phenomena is not seen as a problem in need of resolution but rather as a site of productive tension that reveals underlying structures of meaning that may not be readily assimilable to preexisting frameworks of knowledge.
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