In considering the politics and policies of commemorating the past, this conference probes how public discourses about memory change over time. Papers that explore how the past is known, interpreted, conceptualized, or articulated, and how such representations evolve with the passage of time, are welcome. How has the passage of time changed the way memories of historical violence, atrocity and genocide are represented in the public sphere? In what ways do political, social and cultural forces influence, appropriate, or stifle these memories in different ways as the original event recedes into the more distant past? Related topics include the globalization of memory, and with it the increasing popularity of commemorative memorial practices. The proliferation of museums and memorials, the increase in confessional or memorial literature, and the surge of memory laws against Holocaust and genocide denial are some examples of the historical, cultural and legal phenomena that speak to questions of how individuals and communities remember. These modes of ‘making the past present’ speak not only to the passage of time and the forces of multidirectional memory, but also to the ways in which communities understand issues of justice and accountability, memory and amnesia, prevention and the culture of ‘never again’. This conference thus seeks papers that explore the ways in which communities negotiate narrativization of the past over time, and what the implications of such changes in public discourses of memory suggest in terms of present and future political realities, conflict transformation and atrocity prevention, and the role that history itself has in shaping or re-shaping the ways in which individuals and groups relate to the past and future.
Finally, special consideration will be given to the topic of history and genocide prevention. History and the examination of root causes of conflict are a critical long term line of defense against genocide and other identity based crimes or atrocities. While the work of genocide prevention experts focuses on important issues such as economic, political or security incentives, historical aspects of the conflict at hand—the identity of the stakeholders, their animosity towards each other, and other root causes of conflict—are viewed as something that should be set aside, even forgotten, but not engaged. This conference is interested in submissions from both practitioners and scholars that explore ways in which history has been or can be engaged as a form of genocide prevention. Topics can include, but are not limited to, education curricula, museums or media, journalistic and scholarly writings, commemorations and memorials, and other contexts that provide space for discussion and engagement regarding how issues of identity and history can be used in a prevention framework.
The Historical Dialogues, Justice, and Memory Network (www.historicaldialogues.org) is coordinated by an international Steering Committee and the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA), at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), Columbia University.