Professor of Historical Memory and Transformative Justice
Nicole Immler studied History, Media and Kulturwissenschaften at the University of Graz. She wrote her PHD on Das Familiengedächtnis der Wittgensteins (2005), a (meta)biographical study of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the concept of family memory. After working in the restitution panel at the 'General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism' in Vienna, she did research as a Post-doc at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IKT) in Vienna and Utrecht University (OGC) on The Afterlife of Restitution, examining with trans-generational interviews the effects of Austria's restitution and compensation processes for victims of National Socialism and their families in four countries. With her research on Narratives of (In)Justice, supported by an ASPASIA fellowship from NWO, she was also a Marie Curie Fellow in the research program Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Narratives in a Historical Perspective at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam.
Immler is member of several international networks: 'Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory' (AHDA); Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies; 'Oral History and Life Stories' at the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC); and 'Oral History and Digital Humanities' (CLARIN).
As historian I am working on the afterlife of historical injustice (World War II, colonialism, slavery) in todays society, the relation between memory, identity and justice. My PhD theorized the concept of family memory (Das Familiengedächtnis der Wittgensteins), further developed in my Post-doc The afterlife of restitution, examining how former victims of National Socialism and their families experienced Austria’s compensation practices: analysing the dynamics between family memory and reparation policies. With my Marie Curie research on Narrated (In)Justice I moved from Holocaust and Memory Studies into Transitional Justice; exploring reparations to Dutch Jewry and post-colonial groups next to each other, showing how narratives of (in)justice are re-narrated across generations. Supported by a NWO-ASPASIA I explored the ‘Rawagede case’, a court case on Dutch military actions in Indonesia, with the puzzling question: ‘How to acknowledge colonial injustice?’ To date I focused on reparation questions in regard to historical injustice. My new project on Dialogics of Justice allows me to explore with an interdisciplinary team how recognition and repair works across cases.
Dialogics of Justice (VICI-NWO, 2000-2025) is an interdisciplinary investigation into (legal) recognition after human rights violations and the question: when do people feel recognized? Over the last decade, we have witnessed a rising demand for recognition by victims of colonial violence or slavery, failed peace missions, sexual abuse and ecocide worldwide. This recognition of suffering is increasingly looked at in legal terms and then resolved with financial compensation. However, do those procedures provide the recognition and the repair these claimants hope for? With a team of six we explore civil court cases concerning (historical) injustices in the Netherlands, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Bosnia, and Iraq, studying the social dimension of recognition claims to answer the urgent need for more knowledge on making recognition procedures more effective.
Narratives of (In)Justice examines how post-war and post-colonial memories in the Netherlands affected each other in the last decade and developed into a new form of legal claim culture. In the last decades worldwide apologies and compensation payments have become a crucial language for the recognition of victims of historical injustice. This research studies its effects on societies; analysing the implications for individuals and communities. Therefore this project looks at three Dutch case studies, exploring how the recognition of Dutch Jewish victims became a reference-point for present (post-colonial) claims of victims of the decolonization war in Indonesia (the so-called 'Rawagede case'), and for descendants of formerly enslaved people, Surinamese and Dutch Antillean's.
Trauma & Resilience is an intergenerational Holocaust research from an existential perspective, reaching beyond the trauma discourse. The three-generation interview research with Dutch Jewish families explores experiences of trauma, resilience, (moral) injury, generation, and recognition, analyzing processes of preserving or recovering a sense of meaning in life in the face of dehumanisation.
'How to open spaces to address intergenerational legacies of violence?’ is a comparative pilot-study together with Indonesian partners (ANGIN-project): It examines how legacies of past mass violence affect the quality of family and community life in Indonesia and in the Diaspora.
'Going back with a mission' is an interdisciplinary research on the effects and the meaning of return trips by veterans to former Yugoslavia. This interdisciplinary study extends perspectives of psychiatry and psychology towards humanistic studies, spiritual care and ritual studies; and instead of focusing on individuals also the home front - the family perspective - is included in the analysis. Aim is to gain new knowledge about the various forms of injuries and the potential role of rituals in regard to healing.
Keywords: Reparations, recognition, transitional justice, generation, family memory, oral history, rituals; the 'making' of Europe, (meta)biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Immler is member of several international networks: 'Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory' (AHDA); Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies; 'Oral History and Life Stories' at the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC); 'Oral History and Digital Humanities' (CLARIN), SIMAGINE.