Memory Laws: Criminalizing Historical Narrative

Friday, October 27, 2017 - Saturday, October 28, 2017 Second Floor Common Room

Memory Laws: Criminalizing Historical Narrative

October 27-28, 2017

Since the 1980s, interest in politically and legally shaping public memory regarding the Holocaust and other crimes perpetrated during the Second World War has been evident in a wide variety of arenas. One manifestation of the trend has been the increasing demand for the right to truth, which is purportedly a precondition to conflict resolution and policies of redress.  At the same time, however, there is an increased recognition of the propensity for conflicting narratives about the past, particularly instrumentalized narratives about group identity and violent pasts, to escalate hostilities among nations, ethnicities and/or religions. These hostilities, anchored as they are in the collective memory and history of conflict, have become subject to extensive legislation, with the criminalization of statements about history and violent pasts becoming more commonplace. 

This workshop will explore narratives that engage the memory of past violence in contemporary policies and the politics surrounding the legislation of historical memory. Given the central role that the Holocaust and other mass atrocities have played with regard to human rights concepts today, the memory laws that address these topics, as well as the role of history in conflict resolution, are also of interest. Finally, the workshop will pay particular attention to censorship and punitive measures that aim to constrain counter-narratives to established national identities and to freedom of expression.

Friday, October 27, 2017:

1:30pm-1:45pm, Welcome, Elazar Barkan, Columbia University

1:45pm-4:00pm, The Politics of History: Eastern Europe and the “Duty to Remember”
Jan Gross, Princeton University
Eva Clarita Pettai, University of Tartu
Nikolay Koposov, Emory University
Tarik Amar, Columbia University

4:15pm-5:45pm, Memory Laws and Freedom of Expression: Comparative Legal Perspectives
Robert Kahn, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Jonathan Bush, Columbia Law School

6:15pm, Reception at the Heyman Center for the Humanities

Saturday, October 28, 2017:

9:00am-11:00am, Criminalizing History in Rwanda, Latin America, and Japan
Lars Waldorf, York Law School, University of York
Victoria Sanford, CUNY Graduate Center
Yukiko Koga, Hunter College

11:15am-1:15pm, History and Denialism in the Middle East
Yifat Gutman, Ben Gurion University
Müge Göçek, University of Michigan
Omer Bartov, Brown University

1:15pm-2:15pm, Lunch

2:15pm-4:15pm, Present Pasts: Historical Violence and Contemporary Legal Narratives
Stephanie Golob, Baruch College
Henry Rousso, French National Center for Scientific Research
Dubravka Slavkova, University of Belgrade

4:15-4:30-Concluding Remarks, Elazar Barkan, Columbia University



  • Participant

    Tarik Amar

    Assistant Professor of History

    Columbia University

  • Participant

    Omer Bartov

    John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Professor of German Studies

    Brown University

  • Participant

    Fatma Müge Göçek

    Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies

    University of Michigan

  • Participant

    Stephanie Golob

    Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics

    The Graduate Center, CUNY

  • Participant

    Jan Tomasz Gross

    Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society, emeritus; Professor of History, emeritus

    Princeton University

  • Participant

    Yifat Gutman

    Senior Lecturer

    Ben-Gurion University

  • Participant

    Robert Kahn

    Professor of Law

    University of St. Thomas

  • Participant

    Yukiko Koga

    Assistant Professor of Anthropology

    Hunter College

  • Participant

    Nikolay Koposov

    Visiting Professor, Russian

    Emory University

  • Participant

    Eva-Clarita Pettai

    Senior Researcher at the Institute of Government and Politics

    University of Tartu

  • Participant

    Henry Rousso

    Research Director

    French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)

  • Participant

    Victoria Sanford

    Professor of Anthropology

    The Graduate Center, CUNY

  • Participant

    Dubravka Stojanovic

    Professor of Philosophy

    University of Belgrade

  • Participant

    Lars Waldorf

    Senior Lecturer, Centre for Applied Human Rights

    York Law School


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