Funded projects & Seminar group
Daniele Comberiati (Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier 3)
Monica Jansen (Universiteit Utrecht)
Links with other research groups at CEDLA
The Afterlife of Violence: Public History in Europe and Latin America
The growth of far right movements, the rise of populism, and the crisis of liberal democracy in contemporary societies all over the world – against the backdrop of the tragic history of political violence and totalitarianism in the 20th century – contribute to making the study of collective memories of fascism, public violence, and dictatorship urgent as never before. Fascism is in fact repeatedly evoked in the effort of interpreting some disturbing features of the present and because of the awareness, as Umberto Eco stated, that “We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes” (Eco 1995).
Memory studies provide us an important research paradigm which cuts across numerous disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, taking in long-standing perspectives on the emergence of collective memories and, in particular, of the manifestations of political and cultural memory which are durable of time, as they are pegged to “carriers of external symbols and representation.” Political institutions and institutionalized cultural entities like museums, schools, etc. play a crucial role in the process. At the same time, in a world in which the real is constantly mediated by textual or visual representations, we register an increasing number of individual and social agents involved in the process of (re)constructing memories, each with their own agenda or goal. These agents compete in shaping collective memories and challenge prevalent historical narratives, thus creating ‘counter memories’. Their instruments are artefacts like the arts, architectural spaces, performances, literature, cinema and the like.
Starting from this broad perspective, this ARTES Research Group intends to explore why and in what way the memories of fascism, dictatorship and war are mediated and kept alive, and how a community, a group, a political, social or cultural agent reconstructs them within its contemporary frame of reference. With Ann Rigney, we suggest that memories must swim: “As the performative aspect of the term ‘remembrance’ suggests, collective memory is constantly ‘in the works’ and, like a swimmer, has to keep moving even just to stay afloat. To bring remembrance to a conclusion is de facto already to forget” (Rigney 2009). In drawing attention to the performative nature of memory, the group’s research stresses the vital role of the distinct spatial and temporal contexts of memory re-enactments and re-makings. What is more, by bringing together scholars working in different geographical regions, the MeMo Group provides a unique setting for comparative and transnational research.
The main goal of MeMo, in fact, is to analyse what could be termed trans- and sub-national cultural memories which shape the idea of (anti)fascism, public violence, and dictatorship. Therefore we focus on the construction of textual or visual narratives as well as of cultural practices in which the historical experience of fascism, public violence, and dictatorship is reshaped or contested in order to promote a cultural and political engagement in the present. The shifting in this kind of memories usually reflects in fact a change in political or ideological perspective. Moreover, traumatic events often produce contrasting memories at odds with each other; often some of these memories are excluded from historical discourse and may result in counter memories which challenge a dominant interpretation of the past or produce alternative forms of memorialization in the public sphere. In that sense, conflicting memories turn the past into a battlefield, in which nothing is neutral and where everything is continually contested.
Members of the group collaborate currently on three fields of interest:
The members of this group will meet periodically in seminars to discuss the progress of their research. For 2019, the coordinators work towards a conference that will ideally include all members, who will be invited based on pre-written papers to publish an edited volume. In addition, all members work on scholarly articles, chapters for edited volumes, as well as on edited volumes and monographs. Junior members work on their PhD theses.
Since this group has newly been formed, output will follow.