Farewell, France.

December 6, 2010

On the way to La Mémorial des Martyrs de La Déportation

My fellowship in France has come to a close, and it seems an opportune time to reflect a bit on what I’ve done with my time here. So, here it is: I’ve finished a short piece for a journal (yay!), attended three seminars related to memory studies, met some inspiring scholars, visited several “sites of memory” in Paris, and had the wonderful opportunity to re-connect with a fellow cohort member doing research in Paris. (The latter pleasantly reminded me that the presence of an understanding and inspiring fellow doctoral student should never be underestimated.)

While I was preparing for the fellowship, my major goal was to try to finish a first draft of one chapter of my dissertation. This did not happen. I made progress on the draft but it is unfortunately not even close to complete. One of my challenges was that I wasn’t sure how to approach the chapter. I had decided that I would write the chapter based on the archival research I had recently completed in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. But as I started to write, I found that what I actually needed to do was write my Introduction first. Even if the Introduction would inevitably change as I moved forward, I needed it as a bit of a roadmap for the dissertation and as a way to stay focused. So, I have ended up with two incomplete documents: an introduction, and a chapter. And you know, I feel okay about this. It’s a start.

My time in France has been invaluable. It provided an opportunity to scratch the surface of the very rich field of memory studies in France. It also allowed me to step away from my normal milieu back home and have the luxury to process some of the questions I’ve been working through, and to formulate some new ones. My sincerest thanks go the organizers of the fellowship and the amazing people I met over the course of the last five weeks.

A few pictures from the memory sites of Paris:

La Mémorial des Martyrs de La Déportation

Memorial plaque at Port-Royal station for the victims of terrorist bombing on the RER train in 1996

Outside the Shoah Museum

Arguably, the Quai Branly Museum is a contested site of memory in its depiction of "primitive" art.

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