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MEMORY WITH(OUT) BORDERS



THE SPEAKERS

Aleida Assmann is Professor of English Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz, Germany. She has been Guest Professor at Rice, Princeton, Yale, Chicago and Vienna. The recipient of multiple awards and honours, her many publications include Erinnerungsraüme: Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit: Erinnerungskultur und Geschichtspolitik (Beck, 2006), Erinnerungsräume: Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses (Beck, 1999; translated as Cultural Memory and Western Civilization, Cambridge, 2011 ). She is also editor, with Sebastian Conrad, of Memory in a Global Age: Discourses, Practices and Trajectories (Palgrave, 2010).

Laura Basu is a postdoctoral researcher on the project The Power of Satire: Cultural Boundaries Contested at Utrecht University. Her work focuses on the role of new political satire within liberal democracies. Her previous research was on the power dynamics of cultural memory and its relation to constructions of group identity. She is the author of Ned Kelly as Memory Dispositif: Media, Time, Power, and the Development of Australian Identities, de Gruyter 2012.

Luiza Bialasiewicz is a political geographer and Jean Monnet Professor of EU External Relations in the Department of European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her work focuses on EU borders and migration policy and European geopolitics and her most recent book is Europe in the World: EU Geopolitics and the Making of European Space (2011). She is currently completing work on a National Geographic Society-funded project entitled ‘Re-Mapping Tangier’.

Paul Bijl is assistant professor of Dutch Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. His book Emerging Memory: Photographs of Colonial Atrocity in Dutch Cultural Remembrance will come out in 2014 with Amsterdam University Press. He has published articles on memory and time, photography and mnemonic embodiment, colonial memory and forgetting in the Netherlands and Indonesia, and colonial nostalgia. 

Anna-Maria Brandstetter is senior lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. Her research and teaching focuses on political anthropology, history and memory studies. She has field research experience in Rwanda, the Congo (Kinshasa), and southern Ethiopia. Her current research is concerned with the politics of remembrance in post-genocide Rwanda. Her publications include “Violence, Trauma, Memory,” in Entangled: Approaching Contemporary African Artists, ed. Marjorie Jongbloed (Hannover, 2006) and Contested Pasts: the Politics of Remembrance in Post-Genocide Rwanda (Wassenaar: NIAS, 2010).

Nadia Butt gained her PhD from the University of Frankfurt, Germany, entitled “Transcultural Memory and the Indo-English Novel” in 2009, having first taken a Master’s degree in British and American literature from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. She has taught British and postcolonial literatures at the University of Frankfurt and Muenster and, since October 2009, she has been Lecturer of English in the Department of British and American Studies at the University of Giessen. Her publications include has many articles in the areas of Indian, Asian American, Asian and Black British literature and British films.

Chiara De Cesari is an anthropologist and an assistant professor in European Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on heritage, memory and broader cultural politics and the ways in which these change under conditions of globalization, particularly the intersection of cultural memory, transnationalism and current transformations of the nation-state. She is currently completing a book titled Heritage Beyond the Nation-State: Palestine and the Politics of Culture, and is co-editor together with Ann Rigney of a forthcoming collection on transnational memories. Her most recent project explores the making of a new European collective memory and heritage in relation to its blind spots, with particular reference to the carceral heritage of Italian colonialism in Libya.

Astrid Erll is Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Recent Publications include Memory in Culture (Palgrave Macmillan 2011) and "Travelling Memory" (Parallax, 2011).

Judith Keilbach  is Assistant Professor of Television History in the Media and Culture Studies Department of Utrecht University with a PhD in Film Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses include television history and theory, the relation of media technology and historiography, archives, media events. Her book on Geschichtsbilder und Zeitzeugen (Historical Images and Witness) analyzes how German television documentaries represent the National Socialist past. Her publications on that topic appeared in, amongst others, New German Critique and The Leo Baeck Yearbook. She is co-editor of Grundlagentexte zur Fernsehwissenschaft and Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit and of the journal Montage AV. Her current research project focuses on transnational media events with the Eichmann trial as one case study.

Rosanne Kennedy, is Associate Professor of English, and of Gender, Sexuality and Culture at the Australian National University. She is a team leader on an Australian/German grant, Memory and Media (2012-2013), and has recently (2011) been a Visiting Fellow at University of Konstanz, where she was a member of the Forschungsgruppe Gedächtnis und Geschichte. She has published widely on trauma, testimony, and memory and its re-mediations in cultural, literary, and legal texts and contexts. She has recently edited, with Susannah Radstone, an issue of Memory Studies (forthcoming, 2013), and an issue of Australian Feminist Studies (2011), and has edited (with Jill Bennett) World Memory: Global Trajectories in Personal Time (Palgrave, 2003).

Susanne C. Knittel  is Assistant Professor in Comparative Literature at the Department of Modern Languages at Utrecht University. She holds a PhD in Italian and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her dissertation was a comparative study of German and Italian post-WWII memory culture, with a particular focus on the memory of Nazi euthanasia in Germany and the memory of fascism and the German occupation in North-Eastern Italy.

Her current research focuses on the figure of the perpetrator in the memory cultures of post-communist Romania and post-reunification Germany. 



Birgit Meyer (PHD Cultural Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, 1995) is professor of religious studies at Utrecht University. She conducted research on and published about colonial missions and local appropriations of Christianity, modernity and conversion, the rise of Pentecostalism in the context of neo-liberal capitalism, popular culture and video-films in Ghana, the relation between religion, media and identity, as well as on material religion and the place and role of religion in the 21st century.

Ann Rigney is professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University where she directs a research group on transnational memory. She has published widely in the field of cultural memory, most recently The Afterlives of Walter Scott (Oxford UP, 2012) and “Transforming Memory and the European Project,” New Literary History 43 (2013).

Antonius C.G.M. Robben is Professor of Anthropology at Utrecht University, and past President of the Netherlands Society of Anthropology. His book Political Violence and Trauma in Argentina (2005) won the 2006 Textor Prize of the American Anthropological Association.

Michael Rothberg is Professor of English and Conrad Humanities Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies Initiative. His latest book is Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009), published by Stanford University Press in their “Cultural Memory in the Present” series. He is also the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003), Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University: Poetry, Politics, and the Profession (2009), and special issues of the journals Criticism, Interventions, Occasion, and Yale French Studies.

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, since 1997 professor in East and Central European Studies and since 2004 director for the Centre for European Studies, Lund University, Sweden. She specialises in cultural studies and contemporary history focusing on studies of identities, symbols, collective memory and nationalism. She is the editor in chief of “Slavica Lundensia“ and on the advisory board of the journals “Baltic Worlds“ and “Bialoruskie Zeszyty Historyczne”. She has participated in several international research projects such as Intelligentsia as a Bearer of Social Values in Russia and Poland, Lund - Warszawa – Moscow (1997-2002), Holocaust in European Historical Cultures ( 2003-2007), Cultural Boundaries in Europe: The Balkans in Focus,(2000-2001), Meanings of Europe in National Discourses (2001-2002). Since 2012 she is the leader of the international research network in Memory Studies (ISTME), financed by EU/COST. Her recent publications on memory include: Törnquist-Plewa B. and Bernsand N. (eds) Painful Pasts and Useful Memories. Remembering and Forgetting in Europe, Lund 2012 and Törnquist-Plewa, B. Coming to terms with anti-Semitism: Jan T. Gross´ writings and the construction of cultural trauma in post-communist Poland in Mithander C. ;Sundholm J.; and Velicu, A (eds), “European Studies” v.30 European Cultural Memory post-89,. Amsterdam: Rodopi 2013

Frank Schulze-Engler has been professor of New Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the Institute for English and American Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt since 2002. His publications include his doctoral thesis on East African literature (Intellektuelle wider Willen: Schriftsteller, Literatur und Gesellschaft in Ostafrika 1960-1980, Essen 1992), co-edited volumes of essays on African literature (African Literatures in the Eighties, Amsterdam/Atlanta 1993), postcolonial theory and globalisation (Postcolonial Theory and the Emergence of a Global Society, Frankfurt/M 1998; Transcultural English Studies: Theories, Fictions, Realities, Amsterdam/New York 2008) as well as numerous essays on African literature, comparative perspectives on the New Literatures in English, postcolonial theory, transculturality and the cultural dimensions of globalisation. He is currently Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies and project leader of the cooperative research project “Africa’s Asian Options” (AFRASO) at Goethe University.

ABSTRACTS

Aleida Assmann, A Transnational Perspective on Memory, Guilt, and Migration

Germany and Australia are facing rather different histories of guilt, involving Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust in the case of Germany and the Indigenous population as victims of Australia’s colonial history. While both countries are thus carrying different loads of responsibility for guilty pasts, they lend themselves to a comparative study of the major challenges that they are facing with respect to the role of immigrants within national memory politics that involve issues of historical responsibility. A comparative analysis can help to mutually elucidate the vexed complex of migration, memory and guilt in both countries.



Laura Basu, Transnational Memory and Global News

This paper will argue that global news is a primary site for transnational memory flows and that it is important to attend to the different processes of remembering and forgetting embedded in global news. Do these mnemonic techniques help viewers/readers of news to “cognitively map” the globalised landscapes we inhabit, and thereby assist citizens to make informed decisions? Or do they exacerbate the condition of late capitalism described by Jameson in which it becomes increasingly difficult to orient ourselves in time and space, and thereby participate in the what Wendy Brown calls the process of “de-democratisation”?



Luiza Bialasiewicz, Mapping Memory Across and Beyond Europe

My presentation will explore some of the methodological and conceptual questions that I have been grappling with as part of the work on a new ERC- funded research project entitled ‘Bodies across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond’, that I am initiating as part of a collaboration with oral historian Luisa Passerini. Among other things, the project attempts to trace some of the new forms (and geographies) of trans-national ‘memory work’ of recent migrants to Europe. One of the ways in which we hope to do this is by working with schoolchildren and young adults from migrant communities (from the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa) on participatory video-making and story-telling (textual, oral as well as video). The decision to use film and, in general, other visually-mediated forms of story-telling is part of an attempt both at de-colonizing migration narratives but also (and especially) at freeing these from cartographic limitations, moving beyond simple 'European'/’non-European’ categories of memory, identity and belonging. The key methodological question that I will try to highlight in the presentation, then, is: how can we narrate mobile subjects and mobile memories in a non-topographic, not-necessarily-bound-by-territorial-confines, fashion? How can we represent multiple embodied and affective geographies?



Paul Bijl The Transnational Afterlives of Colonized Voices

How do the voices of colonized people return and speak out in European culture in the postcolonial period? Whereas even cultural memory to a fundamentally transnational phenomenon as colonialism has mostly been studied within national frameworks, I seek to investigate these voices and their positioning in a trans-European setting. Although these voices often return in a critical or antagonist manner to the European past and present, in this presentation I will investigate their role in transnational discourses of guilt and shame, but also of forgiveness and relief.  



Anna-Maria Brandstetter, Travelling Memory? Remembering the Rwandan Genocide and the Holocaust
The expressions ‘Remember’ and ‘Never forget’ and the defiant promise ‘Never again’ have been used throughout Rwanda since the genocide of 1994. They constitute the ‘leitmotifs’ of the politics of remembrance in post-genocide Rwanda and are familiar parts of the transnational repertoire of remembrance that emerged in the aftermath of the Holocaust. This paper explores the entanglement of the memory of the genocide and of the Holocaust in Rwanda. It critically analyzes the role played by the global memory of the Holocaust as a ‘travelling model’ and how it is appropriated and remediated in Rwanda. It argues that there are at least two layers of remembrance in Rwanda – on the one hand, the politics of remembrance and, on the other hand, personal forms of remembrance at the level of families and local communities – and that the Holocaust serves as a paradigm of ‘interpreting’ the 1994 genocide only within the context of state-sponsored forms of remembrance. The Holocaust as a mnemonic paradigm does travel, but it is not equally ‘relevant’ for Rwandans.
Nadia Butt, Maps of Transcultural Memory and South Asian Anglophone Fiction

This paper conceptualises transcultural memory with reference to the novel Kartography (2002) by Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie. Taking its cue from Edward Said’s idea of “overlapping territories, intertwined histories” in Culture and Imperialism (1993), transcultural memory is defined as a memory of intertwined personal and communal memories cutting across ‘national and geographical’ configurations. Transcultural memory is placed against the background of globalised modernity in order to highlight how the worldwide movement of cultural images and practices shape and influence memory narratives. Since modernity has travelled from the ‘West’ to the ‘Rest’ of the world, it is argued furthermore that transcultural memory narratives demonstrate how ‘culture’ and its ‘others’ are no longer locked in an ‘exotic’ cultural otherness, but are interacting with each other through a variety of electronic and print media. To illustrate the theoretical dimensions of transcultural memory, I briefly analyse Kartography, in which the two main characters recreate the borders of their divided city Karachi, ravaged by ethnic violence, during the process of recollecting their childhood. These ‘newly imagined’ borders of their hometown I treat as maps of transcultural memory.



Chiara de Cesari, Rethinking ‘Scale’ in Memory Studies

 

In this short paper, I will argue that rethinking scale is one of the core challenges of memory studies today. Transnationalism theorists have emphasized that one of the advantages of this approach is precisely that it helps us grasp the multi-scalarity of social processes and the mutual constitution of the ‘local,’ the ‘national’ and the ‘global.’ I will argue that doing so is an important endeavour in contemporary memory studies because of the field’s enduring nationalist assumptions. I will also discuss the rigid spatial imaginaries that ground much research in memory. As an illustration, I will talk about the Palestinian cultural heritage preservation organizations I long studied which offer a case in point, in that they produce a form of institutionalized and materialized memory which can be considered simultaneously locally rooted and markedly globalized and cosmopolitan at the same time. Using the Palestinian case, I will also briefly point out the multiple ways in which transnational memorial dynamics can help sustain and reproduce national memories and nation-state-like apparatuses of memory.



 Astrid Erll, Narrative Networks of Migrant Memory

This talk deals with memories of migration, which criss-cross national borders with the migrants who carry them. Stories about migratory experience 'travel' – not only across countries and communities, but also across media. I will draw on examples of South Asians in Great Britain and Turkish people in Germany to trace the emergence of 'narrative networks' of migrant memory.

This notion of 'narrative networks' will serve as a conceptual tool to understand how the social networking of migrants as mnemonic communities brings forth narrative networks of memory. Social and narrative networks, however, are not necessarily isomorphous. Rather, I will look at cases of intersections, overlaps, and borrowings between different identifiable networks of migrant memory.

Judith Keilbach, Media technologies and the Transnational Memory of the Holocaust (in the digital age)

Survivors have always played an important role in remembering the Holocaust. With their testimonies about what happened in the concentrations camps they not only contributed to the historical knowledge about the Holocaust but also kept the memory of these horrible events alive. The forms of these testimonies vary (from personal memories within the family circle to written documents, audio recordings and video testimonies) and their distribution has changed over the course of time: While the memories of Holocaust survivors were first confined within closed groups the Eichmann trial (1961) initiated their worldwide circulation (Wieviorka 2006) and today the Internet guarantees their global accessibility.

My paper will first describe from a media-historical perspective how different media technologies facilitate and shape testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Second, it will focus on the role of media in setting the 'cosmopolitization' of memories (Levy/Sznaider 2006) in motion. By using the Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive as example I will argue that global collections of testimonies are still dominated by local and national access.

Rosanne Kennedy, Soul Music Dreaming: An Antipodean Perspective on Transnational Memory
In this presentation, I draw on a recent Australian film set in 1968, The Sapphires, to consider the directional flows and vectors of transnational and cosmopolitan memory, and the cultural politics of nation and place. The Sapphires effectively uses global tropes, icons and soundtrack – in particular, soul music -- to construct and transmit an Indigenous Australian cultural memory of the sixties. In so doing, it throws into relief questions about the transnational travels of memory from an ‘off-centre’ location such as Australia. While the use of cosmopolitan iconography and mnemonic symbols undoubtedly links this localized memory of the sixties into a context of the ‘global sixties’, to what extent does it mould Australian memory into a common transnational pattern and periodization, flattening history and memory in the process? Is transnational memory operating “multidirectionally” or in one-direction only, or both, but along differing vectors? Whose memories can become cosmopolitan and under what conditions? I suggest that analysis of the film enables us to make some useful distinctions between ‘cosmopolitan’ memory, and the transnational flows of memory.

Susanne Knittel, What we Talk about when we Talk about Perpetrators?

This presentation focusses on the figure of the perpetrator in contemporary memory culture. The advantage of looking at the conceptualization and representation of perpetrators is that it compels us to ask potentially uncomfortable questions about guilt, responsibility, collaboration, etc., questions that are significantly more easily avoided when thinking only about victims and victimhood. Moreover, critical attention to the figure of the perpetrator can be useful for a transnational memory studies: on the one hand, within a given memory complex, e.g. the Holocaust, it is important to consider how the conceptualization and representation of its perpetrators vary between different countries or communities. In short, what do they talk about when they talk about perpetrators? On the other hand, when the question of the perpetrator is considered across different memory complexes, we can gain insight into mechanisms of repression and forgetting, specifically into the way one memory can act as a screen for another. An example of this would be the way in which the memory of the foibe killings in Italy has been used to displace and even rehabilitate the memory of Fascism, a rehabilitation facilitated by the persistent conception of Fascism as merely a ‘lesser evil’ compared to Nazism. This in turn shows that comparison is already inherent in the way we think about perpetrators, and that such comparisons more often than not serve an auto-exculpatory function. A comparative transnational memory studies can help to counteract such simplistic and frequently disingenuous comparisons.



Birgit Meyer, Ghanaian Heritage Dynamics

Based on longstanding fieldwork in Ghana and research conducted in the framework of the NWO-funded project Heritage Dynamics. Politics of Authentication and Aesthetics of Persuasion in Brazil, Ghana, the Netherlands and South Africa, my presentation will take the contestations around the establishment and acceptance of state-driven formations of heritage in Ghana as a case to highlight broader issues with regard to practices of commemoration and heritage. The main nodes in the field of heritage formation will be sketched: a) state politics of profiling national heritage under the aegis of “Sankofaism,” which entails a positive appraisal of past African cultural and religious elements, b) Christian – and especially Pentecostal – critical attitudes towards that vision – crystallized by the motto “make a complete break with the past,” c) the popular Ghanaian and Nigerian video-film industry that mirrors and feeds into registers of popular culture, d) African roots/Black Heritage tourism on the part of African Americans who visit the former slave fortresses at Cape Coast and Elmina. Heritage and memory being subject to mediation, it will be shown that in contemporary Ghana heritage and memory are mediated and framed via various, competing channels. I will argue that in the era of neo-liberal capitalism, entailing the concomitant liberation and liberalization of the mass media, the establishment of national heritage and memory is no longer fully contained by the Ghanaian state, which fails to develop a successful, broadly compelling aesthetics of persuasion. With new players arising who mobilize transnational connections, heritage and memory become subject to public tensions and debates, offering alternative takes with regard to the articulation of Ghanaian, African and Black culture and identity.



Antonius Robben, Transnational Holocaust Memory and the Politics of Accountability in Argentina

The Holocaust has become a universal paradigm of victimhood, evilness, and testimony; so also in Argentina. In the early-2000s, the destruction of the European Jews was equated with the disappearance and assassination of political opponents during the 1976-1983 military regime. The Argentine genocide discourse made Holocaust Studies of direct relevance. Historians began to study the junta’s secret detention centers as if these were concentration camps. Others examined labor relations under genocide, everyday life under repression, and rescuers of escaped captives. My presentation discusses the judicial implications of the genocide discourse. Since 2006, courts have been convicting military perpetrators for genocide rather than crimes against humanity, as had been the case in the mid-1980s. The genocide discourse has enlarged the circle of suspects to anyone considered complicit with the dictatorial regime, such as lawyers, judges, journalists, real estate agents, bankers, food suppliers, and building contractors. Furthermore, the discursive shift from crimes against humanity to genocide has expanded individual legal culpability into moral collective responsibility, and thus further raised the stakes of accountability.



Michael Rothberg, The Witness as World-Traveller: Multidirectional Memory and Holocaust Internationalism Before Human Rights

In influential, if controversial work, the sociologists Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider have argued that in the last two decades a new global memory culture has emerged linked to remembrance of the Nazi genocide of European Jews: “At the beginning of the third millennium, memories of the Holocaust facilitate the formation of transnational memory cultures, which in turn, have the potential to become the cultural foundation for human rights politics.” The link between Holocaust memory, cosmopolitanism, and human rights has “normative and institutional” correlates, according to Levy and Sznaider, and has been facilitated by the “decontextualization” of the Nazi genocide and its reconfiguration as an “abstract” symbol of “good and evil.” The link Levy and Sznaider conceptualize between globalized Holocaust memory and human rights should be taken seriously. Yet, as I argue in Multidirectional Memory, transnational Holocaust memory cultures have not emerged only in the last two decades; they have been there all along, even if they never entered into dominant understandings of the past. A revised look at the period before the globalization of Holocaust consciousness in the 1990s suggests a conception of transnational memory that looks quite different from the normative and institutional cosmopolitan memory described by Levy and Sznaider. The earlier, 1960s moment of globalized memory culture I pursue here did not emerge in tandem with the rise of human rights, but instead aligned itself with anticolonial, communist internationalism. In this talk, I explore the half-century long testimonial project of Marceline Loridan-Ivens as an example of “world”-travelling in the service of a politicized Holocaust internationalism.



Frank Schulze-Engler, Global History, Local Modernities, Transcultural Memory: World War I and II in Native Canadian, Australian and Maori Fiction

In looking at the significance of World War I and II for colonized people in general and indigenous people in particular, it is tempting to frame this involvement of non-European people in global history in terms of an anticolonial story – a story of colonized subjects manipulated by powerful colonizing overlords and of subaltern soldiers coerced to fight Europe’s wars. This storyline seems particularly tempting in the case of indigenous people from Europe’s overseas colonies: Native Canadians, Aboriginal people from Australia or Maori from New Zealand were doubly disenfranchised, as members of colonial nations that were still struggling for recognition, and as a minority population dispossessed and marginalised by the white majority population. While the acknowledgement of the role of indigenous people in both World Wars and the recognition of their sacrifices undeniably remain pressing issues, a story line of indigenous peoples as forgotten victims of a double colonial manipulation is arguably much too limited to come to terms with the global significance of the World Wars for indigenous societies, cultures and literatures all over the world. Agency, modernization, transformation and the struggle for citizenship are other key features of the involvement of indigenous people in global wars, and both World War I and II generated specific articulations of global history and local indigenous modernities that have left behind legacies that remain crucial today.

Current debates and activism on indigenous soldiers in World War I and II have often unfolded as mnemonic struggles for recognition that have sought to (re)inscribe Native Canadian, Aboriginal and Maori war participants into powerful national myths built on Canada’s, Australia’s and New Zealand’s contribution to 20th century global wars, particularly the “Great War” of 1914-18. These memory acts are thus critiques of dominant modes of national identity based on an exclusionary cultural memory that negates the role of indigenous soldiers, but they are also ultimately geared towards including indigenous people in a national identity predicated on the memory of past military glory and sacrifice – at a time when the capacity of these myths to act as viable vehicles of identity for 21st century multicultural societies is being increasingly questioned. The talk will look at the multi-facetted and complex representation of indigenous war experiences in World War I and II in Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road (2005) and Patricia Grace’s Tu (2005) as an example of transcultural memory practices that transform both dominant concepts of national identity and indigenous modes of self-representation.

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, Local Memory in a Cosmopolitan Age. A Case of a Former Shtetl in Poland.



The presentation aims to point to the dynamic between the local and transnational memories. The author focuses on a case of the Polish town Szydlowiec , that until the Holocaust was a typical “shtetl” with the vast majority of its inhabitants (about 70% ) being Yiddisch speaking, mostly Chassidic Jews. Almost all of them perished during the Holocaust and the town after the war was repopulated by Poles from the nearby countryside. The former ethnic and cultural diversity of the town was replaced by linguistic and ethnic homogeneity.

By applying different methods such as the analyses of townscape and cultural preservation (buildings , names), monuments, local history writing as well interviews and participant observation I have studied what happened with the memory of the Jews in the town. My findings show that for a long time the Jewish past of the town was repressed and both actively and passively forgotten. However, gradually and especially after the fall of Communism in 1989, the interest for the town’s Jewish past has been steadily on the rise. Today, one can speak about the revival of the Jewish memory in the town. I describe this process and seek to explain it by highlighting the role of transnational memory flows and the influence of the discourses of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism.


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