1. Memories of Conflict, Conflicts of Memory, Senate House, London, 12-13 February, 2013 (Abstracts due 1 November, 2012)

Organised by:

Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies
Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies, University College London
Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory

Contact:

Jordana Blejmar (Institute of Germanic & Romace Studies) and Anindya Raychaudhuri (UCL)
contact email:  Jordana.Blejmar@sas.ac.uk and a.raychaudhuri@ucl.ac.uk

There are very few facets of public and private life that are not affected by cultural memories of war and conflict. Recent academic scholarship has also been revolutionised as experts on literature, cinema, history, area studies, sociology, anthropology and many others attempt to theorise the memory-narratives of the last century marked by unprecedented totalitarian regimes, coup d’états, military confrontations, popular movements and what Alain Badiou recently called the passion for the real.

This interdisciplinary conference will examine the various ways in which memories of wars and conflicts of the twentieth century are constructed, resisted, appropriated and debated in contemporary culture. The conference will provide a space for dialogue and interchange of ideas among scholars researching on memory issues related to different regions of the globe. In particular, we are interested in discussing the tensions between local and transnational memory-narratives, official and subversive forms of commemoration, hegemonic and alternative conceptions of remembering.

2. Local Memory, Global Ethics, Justice: The Politics of Historical Dialogue in Contemporary Society, Columbia University, NYC (Abstracts due 30 August, 2012)

The Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA) at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights will hold its first annual conference in New York City, December 11-14, 2012. The conference will be co-hosted by the Guantanamo Public Memory Project, and will also feature the Guantanamo Public Memory Projects’ first traveling exhibit and digital media as a shared international challenge in historical dialogue.

Historical dialogue and accountability is a growing field of advocacy and scholarship that encompasses the efforts in conflict, post-conflict, and post-dictatorial societies to come to terms with their pasts. In contesting nationalist myths and identities, in examining official historical narratives, and opening them to competing narratives about past violence, historical dialogue seeks to provide analysis of past violence grounded in empirical research; acknowledge the victims of past violence and human rights abuses; challenge and deconstruct national, religious, or ethnic memories of heroism and/or victimhood; foster shared work between interlocutors of two or more sides of a conflict; identify and monitor how history is misused to divide society and perpetuate conflict; enhance public discussion about the past.

This conference seeks to consider questions relating to these topics, and the state of the relatively new field of historical dialogue and its relationship to other discourses such as transitional justice, memory studies, oral history and historical redress., and. Little consideration has been given to the intersections of these discourses, and how these can be employed as tools in understanding the root causes of conflict. The conference thus seeks to explore the possibilities and limits of these concepts and methods, searching for unexplored connections and elaborating upon how historical analysis can be employed to resolve long-standing sectarian conflicts.

We seek to explore the genealogy of the discipline of historical dialogue as well as research emanating from it: how do the memory and history of past violence evolve over time, and how do they influence a given society in the present day? What is the relationship of advocacy to knowledge production and the relationship between history, memory, and contemporary society? What is the relationship of historical truth to testimonies in truth commissions, and how do truth commissions construct historical truth? How can the tensions that exist between dialogue and accountability be understood, addressed or reconceived? In what ways can one compare historical narratives in post (identity) conflict to post authoritarian regimes? What is the role of subjects such as gender, religion, human being and citizen in understanding historical narrative, memory, dialogue and accountability? Finally, the conference seeks to be a space of interaction and the exchange of ideas between scholars and practitioners who often do not have the opportunity to collaborate, and we welcome papers that address this divide or reach across these boundaries.

Proposals for individual papers, panels, roundtable discussions and digital media presentations will be considered. The deadline for submission of proposals is August 30, 2012. All proposals and questions must be submitted electronically via email to AHDA Program Director Ariella Lang at ahda@columbia.edu. Proposals should include a 300-500 word abstract, your name and contact information, as well as a brief bio. Limited travel and lodging funds are available; applications for such funds can be made upon acceptance of your proposal.

3. Remembering, Forgetting, Imagining: The Practices of Memory 1-2 March, 2013, Fordham University, New York (Abstracts Due 15 November, 2012)

Keynote speaker: Professor Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University

“Modern memory is, above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the recording, the visibility of the image.”
–Pierre Nora

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the crucial role of memory in formulating our individual and communal identities, and to examine the scholarly discipline of memory itself. We hope to initiate conversations about memory as an active and ongoing cognitive process rather than simply a reaction to past experiences or a set of “facts” frozen in time. While memory purports to preserve the past in the present, it is inherently protean and unstable, and prone to fictionalizing. Indeed, memory and imagination are tightly intertwined; memory and ideology are closely bound; and our memory of what has come before constantly shapes our understanding of and expectations about what is still to come.

This interdisciplinary conference, then, will explore not only this desire to make memory sacred but also our ability to forget, to forget that we’ve forgotten, and to imagine the past in a way that fits neatly into our worldviews. These questions are particularly relevant in the wake of recent revolutions and social movements in the Arab World, Europe, and even the United States; learning to reinvent the past in a certain way helps us to reimagine the future, and thus inaugurate change. Consequently, we invite proposals that explore the various and variegated practices of memory as figured through literature, culture, politics, and scholarship generally.

We welcome individual abstracts of 250 words or panel proposals of 750 words, for three participants, to practicesofmemory@gmail.com by November 15, 2012. In addition to traditional academic papers, the committee encourages creative literary work, performance art, and multi-media presentations that in some way address the topic.

Presenters might consider, but are not limited to, the following questions:
• How is memory practiced through literature, art, film, or culture?
• Who remembers? What is remembered? What is forgotten? Whose voices are heard? Whose voices are suppressed?
• What is the role of “postmemory,” with its focus on the trauma of the past?
• How is memory understood in early eras, such as medieval or early modern?
• How do texts treat or reflect the past?
• How does the past help us prepare for the future?
• What is the role of imagination in memory or nostalgia?
• How is memory mediated by “memory makers” and memorials?
• In what ways has postmodernism influenced the study of memory?
• What is the role of psychoanalysis in memory studies?
• In what ways does the state repress and/or produce memory?
• How do neoconservatist or neoliberalist movements treat the past?
• How do memorializing objects—texts, photographs, monuments—produce and /or subvert an official state narrative?
• What is the role of affect in producing collective memory?

Last week, I participated in an event sponsored by the Institute of Public Knowledge at NYU and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). It was an honour to share the presentation stage with Marie Wilson, Commissioner of the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Virginie Ladisch, Head of the Children and Transitional Justice Program at the ICTJ. The presentation included a screening of a short, documentary film (introduced by Tamara Cremo) made by several high school students who attended the Halifax national gathering last year. Commissioner Wilson spoke eloquently about the work done thus far by the commission and Virginie Ladisch shared her knowledge about both the opportunities and challenges in engaging youth in processes of transitional justice.

I think a video of the talk may be available shortly so for now, I’d like to focus on a conversation that happened after the talk. The panelists, organizers and budding filmmakers/students went out to dinner after the presentation. The conversation touched on everything from the challenges of motherhood and work/life balance, transitional justice in other international settings, and the importance of creating more awareness about the IRS legacy. We also spoke briefly about Antjie Krog’s work. A journalist and author who covered the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Krog wrote about the work of the commission throughout its mandate and eventually wrote the award-winning book, Country of My Skull. In discussing the lack of national media coverage about the IRS TRC in Canada, Marie Wilson asked, “Where is our Antjie Krog?” Her question made me pause. It’s true. Why hasn’t there been more national coverage about the reconciliation process? Why haven’t journalists and/or media outlets offered sustained media coverage of the IRS TRC? Where is the journalist who has taken up the reconciliation process to portray all its political and personal complexities?

A few years ago, when the commission was still in its early days, I gave a talk at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference at Harvard University. During the Q and A, a member of the audience, a scholar writing about the TRC in Sierra Leone, asked me whether the IRS TRC and the process of reconciliation had galvanized the Canadian public. I answered quickly and with disappointment that it had not. In fact, there are still many Canadians unaware that such a commission even exists. Although there has been some excellent media coverage, it has been sporadic and often appears in local presses. The national newspapers and broadcasters may run a short story on it from time to time, but there hasn’t been any sustained coverage of the reconciliation process. Why is there no weekly or even monthly column that regularly covers the TRC in the Globe and Mail or National Post? Why doesn’t the CBC have a regular radio or TV segment on Canadian reconciliation?

Some people are quick to point out that there are, of course, differences between the South African TRC and the Canadian one. In South Africa, the system of apartheid implicated and effected everyone and it happened in the immediate past. But, I would argue that the same is true in Canada. The Indian Residential Schools and their legacies implicate every Canadian, not just Aboriginal peoples. The last school closed in 1996, suggesting that this history is still fresh and its repercussions are playing out in the present.  More national media coverage is necessary for a greater and deeper awareness of how the reverberations of the IRS system reach out through Canadian society.

The 15th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality will be held from March 28 – 31, 2012. I attended a previous Roundtable on Memory Politics and had a great experience: interesting presentations, outstanding keynote speakers and wonderful hosts at the Irmgard Coninx Foundation. The papers are selected through an international essay competition. Accommodations and flights to Berlin will be provided to the authors of the (approximately) 45 successful papers. Apply!

Borders and Borderlands: Contested Spaces

15th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality, March 28 – 31, 2012

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a new era seemed to have opened up: a world without borders and thus – potentially – a world with less conflict and more freedom. Today, more than 20 years later, we can observe that some border systems have softened while others have been consolidated, and many more border-based regulations have been created on national and supra-national levels. The nation-state has not disappeared and neither have its borders. However, borders and borderlands cannot be reduced to spaces of division and conflict but they also exist as spaces of social, ethnic, cultural and economic blending – territories of their own. In the tradition of previous Berlin Roundtables held on urban development, transnational risks, human rights, and cultural diversity the 15th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality will focus on borders and borderlands as contested spaces.

For further details please see the background paper.

Conference Format
The 15th Berlin Roundtables will be held at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) from March 28 – 31, 2012. Based on an international essay competition, approximately 45 applicants will be invited to discuss their research, concerns and agendas with peers and prominent scholars in Berlin. The Irmgard Coninx Foundation will cover travel to and accommodation in Berlin.
Discussions will take place in three workshops:

“The Social Life of Borders and Borderlands” chaired by Julie Y. Chu (Anthropology, University of Chicago) and Tatiana Zhurzhenko (Political Science, University of Vienna),
“The Politics of Borders: Security and Control” chaired by Mattias Kumm (Law, Humboldt-Universität Berlin, WZB and New York University) and Eric Tagliacozzo (History, Cornell University),
“Natural Resources and the Environment along Borders and Borderlands: Conflicts and Solutions” chaired by Michael Redclift (Geography, King’s College London) and Maria Tysiachniuk (Environmental Unit, Center for Independent Research St. Petersburg).

The conference will be accompanied by evening lectures. Guest speakers will be announced soon.

Eligibility and Application Procedure
The call for papers extends to scholars (max. up to 5 years after Ph.D.) and practitioners (e.g. workers in governmental or urban services, NGOs, journalists). Please submit your paper (maximum 3500 words including footnotes and bibliography), an abstract (max. 300 words), a narrative biography and a CV using the online submission form and the style sheets for your abstract and essay.Submission deadline is November 30, 2011. Please note that co-authorship and already published papers will not be accepted. All participants are expected to actively participate during all days of this workshop.

Irmgard Coninx Research Grant
Conference participants are eligible to apply for one of up to three short-term fellowships to be used at the WZB in Berlin. For further information on the fellowship please visit our research grant site. Conference participants will receive all necessary details on the grant application shortly before the conference.

CFP: Encuentro 2012

July 20, 2011

Artwork by Pedro Lasch at the 2009 Encuentro in Bogotá

Every few years, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics holds an amazing conference. It’s called the “Encuentro,” meaning “meeting” or “encounter.” I had the pleasure of attending the Encuentro in 2009, held in Bogotá, Colombia. (See my posts on the event: Part I and Part II.) It was absolutely fantastic, an engaging 9 days spent with inspirational people. I highly recommend the conference, and it would be great to see a large Canadian contingent there! See the CFP below:

Cities | Bodies | Action

The Politics of Passion in the Americas

March 17-25, 2012
Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana
Centro Histórico, Mexico City

The 8th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute seeks to examine the broad intersections between urban space, performance and political/artistic action in the Americas. From the critical poetics of body art to the occupation of public space by social movements, the event invites participants to explore the borders, identities and practices through which subjectivities, hegemonies and counter-hegemonies are constructed in the spaces of the city and beyond. We are particularly interested in the ways in which bodies both interpellate and are interpellated, mobilize and are mobilized, by and around the diverse and complex passions that define our globalized and mediatized present—fear, hatred, disenchantment, hope and faith, among others. We seek to investigate, collectively, the strategies through which bodies (individual, social and political) make themselves present, and intervene aesthetic conventions, social formations and political structures in their search to create new meanings and new modes of sociality. This theme will be the point of departure for a vast array of performances, exhibits, roundtables, workshops, lectures and work groups.

Since 2000, our Encuentros have been a point of contact for artists, scholars, students and activists interested in the relationship between performance and politics in the Americas. Each Encuentro brings together 400-600 participants, and is part academic conference, part performance festival, and always interdisciplinary. The Encuentro is a space focused on experimentation, dialogue and collaboration.

The application deadline for the Encuentro is September 26, 2011. To apply, see the instructions on our website (Propose a Project or Apply to a Work Group) and then fill out the Online Application in English.

 

The last couple of weeks have been crammed full with interesting events. Recently, I posted about the Memory Studies conference in New York. The event, which started off with a fascinating opening night screening called A Film Unfinished, brought memory scholars from around together to discuss their research. It was the first time I was able to present some of my research on the IRS TRC’s national gathering in Winnipeg, Manitoba last summer, and I think (and hope) it went well.

Still from "Canned Meat". Image from Harbourfront Centre website.

Back in Toronto, I attended two other wonderful events. On Wednesday, March 30th, the Harbourfront Centre hosted Aboriginal Women in the Arts: Using Art to Reclaim Traditional Roles with Terril Calder, Lee Maracle and Cheryl L’hirondelle. Calder’s film, Canned Meat, was a jarring and beautiful film that spoke to themes of isolation, memory, and community. Maracle’s poetry, as always, was moving. Her responses during the Q and A were insightful and inspiring. And L’hirondelle’s songs were heartfelt and beautiful. (One of the songs was written in collaboration with Aboriginal women in prison in Saskatchewan.) My favourite song was “Wishful Heart,” written while walking through Vancouver’s downtown east side.

Image of the exhibit's book cover from the AGO website.

And last but not least was the Art Galley of Ontario’s symposium called Inuit Modern. The symposium, on April 2nd, brought together Inuit artists and curators to discuss the new exhibit at the AGO: Inuit Modern. As one of the moderators noted, it was the first time so many Inuit artists were gathered together in “the south.” (I learned that Toronto counts as part of “the south” when the point of comparison is so far north.) The participants discussed the tensions between concepts like traditional and modern, north and south, and art and authority.

1. Memory: Silence, Screen, Spectacle, March 24 – 26, The New School for Social Research, New York

The clamor of the past can be almost deafening: it preoccupies us through speech, texts, screens, spaces and commemorative spectacles; it makes demands on us to settle scores, uncover the “truth” and search for justice; it begs for enshrinement in museums and memorials; and it shapes our understanding of the present and future. However noisy and ceaseless the demands and memory of the past may seem, though, in every act of remembering there is something silenced, suppressed, or forgotten. Memory’s inherent selectivity means that for every narrative, representation, image, or sound evoking the past, there is another that has become silent—deliberately forgotten, carelessly omitted, or simply neglected. The conference will explore the tension between the loud and often spectacular past and those forgotten pasts we strain to hear.

[I’ll be presenting a short paper on the IRS TRC’s first national gathering in Winnipeg last year.]


2. Animating the Indigenous Humanities, March 25, 2011, Transcanada Institute, Guelph Ontario

The TransCanada Institute is hosting a one-day colloquium titled “Animating the Indigenous Humanities: Portaging Disciplines, Institutions, Ecologies” with the Indigenous Humanities Group of the University of Saskatchewan on Friday, March 25th at 11:00am.

The Indigenous Humanities Group (IGH) work in transcultural and transystematic ways to nourish a new/old learning spirit into education at all levels and into every aspect of what is recognized, funded, and published as academic research. Since establishing over a decade ago, the IHG has aligned itself with critique of Eurocentrism and promotion of indigenous voice and vision. These two activities encourage decolonization in complementary ways, challenging established academic hierarchies, assumptions, practices, and outcomes, and seeking to implement forms of inquiry, dialogue, and exchange based in the adaptive traditions developed by the First Peoples of North America. More info: http://www.transcanadas.ca/

Thanks, Sachi for sending information about the Guelph event!

 

UPDATE: Some of the presentations are available online. Click here to watch.

For those people (like me) who couldn’t make it to the “Sharing Truth – Creating a National Research Centre on Residential Schools” Forum in Vancouver, you can watch the proceedings online here.

Catherine Kennedy at the Sharing Truth event in Vancouver

At the moment, Catherine Kennedy, the Executive Director of the South Africa History Archives is discussing some of the challenges regarding the compilation, interpretation and accessibility of the TRC archives in South Africa. Tom Adami, Chief of the Archives and Records Management United Nations Mission in Sudan is scheduled to speak next.

The program for the rest of Day One of the Forum is available here.