Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 2.10
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.6. Fighting Multidirectional Amnesias in Literature, Art, and Social Activism

The concepts of amnesia, forgetting, and displacement have been at the heart of memory studies for several years. Yet the heterogeneous processes through which the political responsibilities and difficult legacies of violent pasts are erased, deflected, or downplayed are often discussed in isolation, within debates that focus on the silences and active ignorance (Medina, 2013) of a particular memory community. Taking inspiration from Michael Rothberg's Multidirectional Memory (2009), this panel analyzes cultural memory in a cross-referencing, expansive, and intersectional fashion. Centering our discussion on the concepts of amnesia, responsibility, and solidarity, we ask: How are processes of deferral, forgetting, and denial in one historical context connected to similar processes in a different historical context? How do occluded histories and cross-feeding erasures develop across memory communities? How do they shape each other through transcultural and transnational connections and transfers? How can memory activism (Gutman & Wüstenberg, 2022) change our communities and fight the corrupting effects of multidirectional amnesia? And how can literature, art, and social activism foster practices of 'mnemonic care' (Mihai, 2022) that counter the effects of multidirectional amnesia in the public sphere?The panel addresses these questions by looking at a variety of social and cultural texts, unified by a shared concern for the politics of forgetting and memory activism. We will discuss how and to what extent critical art, literature, and activism can reconfigure communities' memoryscapes through a work of 'mnemonic solidarity' that encourages ordinary citizens to come to terms with their historical responsibility, positionality, and amnesias.

Arielle StamblerSocia ...

NUBS 2.10 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The concepts of amnesia, forgetting, and displacement have been at the heart of memory studies for several years. Yet the heterogeneous processes through which the political responsibilities and difficult legacies of violent pasts are erased, deflected, or downplayed are often discussed in isolation, within debates that focus on the silences and active ignorance (Medina, 2013) of a particular memory community. Taking inspiration from Michael Rothberg's Multidirectional Memory (2009), this panel analyzes cultural memory in a cross-referencing, expansive, and intersectional fashion. Centering our discussion on the concepts of amnesia, responsibility, and solidarity, we ask: How are processes of deferral, forgetting, and denial in one historical context connected to similar processes in a different historical context? How do occluded histories and cross-feeding erasures develop across memory communities? How do they shape each other through transcultural and transnational connections and transfers? How can memory activism (Gutman & Wüstenberg, 2022) change our communities and fight the corrupting effects of multidirectional amnesia? And how can literature, art, and social activism foster practices of 'mnemonic care' (Mihai, 2022) that counter the effects of multidirectional amnesia in the public sphere?
The panel addresses these questions by looking at a variety of social and cultural texts, unified by a shared concern for the politics of forgetting and memory activism. We will discuss how and to what extent critical art, literature, and activism can reconfigure communities' memoryscapes through a work of 'mnemonic solidarity' that encourages ordinary citizens to come to terms with their historical responsibility, positionality, and amnesias.



Arielle Stambler

Social Rights Amnesia and the Postcolonial Novel

This paper extends scholarship on the human rights movement's amnesia about its own historical origins (Moyn, 2018; Getachew, 2019; Slaughter, 2018). In the mid-twentieth century, social rights were canonized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while anticolonial movements refashioned them as the collective rights of states to equal integration into the global economy; they argued that formal political independence meant little without a corresponding commitment to ending economic neocolonialism (Getachew 2019). However, by century's end, human rights had dropped commitments to economic and social well-being, even as they had become the dominant language of global justice. Organized around a minimalist program of securing individuals' "status equality," human rights visions now lacked corresponding commitments to material equality (Moyn, 2018). This status-equality framework continues to predominate in popular human rights discourse today, reflecting a widespread forgetfulness about key episodes in human rights history.
However, this paper argues that twenty-first-century postcolonial fiction contests such amnesia. I propose the genre of the "postcolonial social rights novel," which represents chronic material deprivation and returns questions of collective responsibility and communal interdependence to the human rights framework. The idea of social rights constitutes a bulwark against reigning neoliberal ideas of material provision as market prerogative, personal responsibility, and humanitarian charity. Reading NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names as a case study, I argue that the "social rights imaginary" of contemporary postcolonial fiction offers a starting point for remembering the more capacious global justice aims of an earlier period and refashioning them for the present.


Jennifer Noji

Recovering Memories of Japanese American Redress in the Movement for Black Reparations

Since George Floyd's murder in May 2020 and the resulting wave of #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations across the globe, an ever-growing number of people are demanding racial equality and reparative justice for centuries of violence against Black people in the US. As demands for racial equality surge, the movement for Black reparations (reparations for slavery and its violent legacies) has gained more public and political interest than ever before. Yet, mainstream discourse about Black reparations tends to forget that claims for redress are not new in this nation. African Americans have been demanding reparations for slavery since the 1800s (Araujo 2017). Additionally, Japanese Americans fought for and actually won reparations in the 1980s following their wartime incarceration. Many contemporary activists are therefore recovering memories of the past in making their case for reparations today. Among these activists are Japanese Americans, who not only mobilize memories of their own struggle for redress in the 1980s but also highlight the crucial role that several African Americans played in this movement. These Japanese American activists demonstrate, first and foremost, that receiving reparations from the US government is, in fact, possible. Yet, they also illuminate how memories of past social movements and solidarities can motivate and nurture new ones. By analyzing speeches, testimonies, and 'artivist' works of contemporary Japanese American activists, this paper explores how activists involved in the present-day reparations movement combat multidirectional amnesia, by illuminating layers of national historical violence and recovering forgotten memories of past struggles and coalitions.


Stefano Bellin

Italy's Multidirectional Amnesia: Responsibility and Memory Activism in Primo Levi

Several scholars have highlighted Italy's difficulty in coming to terms with its recent violent past and take responsibility for its national crimes. Italy's public memory is a particularly fertile ground for studying 'multidirectional amnesia'. This is due to several factors, among which we could include the following: Italy's national formation developed almost in parallel with its colonial expansion; the colonization of overseas territories was preceded by the 'internal colonization' of the South; Fascism appeared for the first time in Italy; racial regulations in the colonies anticipated the Racial Laws of 1938; and in WW2 Italy was first the main ally of Nazi Germany and then one of its enemies, first an occupying power and later an occupied, fractured country.
This paper will analyze some aspects of Italy's multidirectional amnesia through the interviews and writings of Primo Levi, one of its most influential memory agents. I will highlight a tension that characterizes Levi's memory narratives: on the one hand, a subtle tendency to partially subscribe to the myth of the 'good Italian' (Del Boca, 2005) and a faltering postcolonial consciousness; on the other hand, an attention to the protean transformations of fascism and a willingness to project his Auschwitz experience onto the present, tracing careful parallels (and distinctions) between the structures of power that led to the Lager and contemporary forms of violence and injustice. By examining this tension, I will discuss both the critical potential and the limitations of Levi's 'ethical memory' (Gordon, 2001) and 'mnemonic solidarity' (Mihai, 2022).


Sharon Zelnick

Recuperation and Return in the Work of Philip Roth and Yael Bartana

This paper comparatively analyzes Yael Bartana's filmic trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned (2007-2011) and Philip Roth's novel Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993). Although conceived separately, both Roth and Bartana's activist projects fictionalize millions of Israeli Jews 'returning' to Poland and Germany. Roth's novel narrativizes the encounters between a fictionalized version of himself, a Jewish American author living in New York and his doppelganger impersonating him in Israel. The 'real' Philip Roth takes a trip to Israel to meet his imposter Moishe Pipik, who conceptualizes a plan, he calls "Diasporism" to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict by 'returning' the Ashkenazi Israeli community to its European roots. Yael Bartana's film trilogy evokes this same fantasy in the second part, 'Mur i wieża' (Wall and Tower). This film follows Israeli migrants constructing a Kibbutz in modern day Warsaw, creating a diasporic community home. As we hear Hebrew and see Israelis – both Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) and Mizrahi (Jews of Arab descent) – and Polish people building a Kibbutz, Bartana recalls the utopian beginnings of Israel. Bartana and Roth's solidarity centered fanciful fictions of return mediate intersections between Israeli, Palestinian, and European legacies of violence and provide novel lenses through which to see how art intervenes in the fight against fascism and nationalism. Their strikingly similar provocative narratives, aesthetic foci on doubles and repetition, as well as thematic explorations of solidarity, amnesia, guilt, repentance, and protest, allow us to tease out questions of postmemorial migrant aesthetics (Hirsch,1996), mnemonic solidarity (Mihai,2022), diasporic consciousness (Weiss,2016), and reflective nostalgia (Hirsch&Miller 2011). Bartana and Roth ultimately suggest that recognition of and solidarity against, discriminatory nationalisms must prevail in order for honest conversations about change to occur within and beyond the Jewish community in the diaspora and in Israel. In addition to providing a long overdue comparison of their works, this paper opens up broader questions about how Jewish Americans and diasporic Israelis' activist art each engage with the fraught German-Israeli-Palestinian memory landscapes and entangled histories of political violence.

PhD Candidate
,
University of California, Los Angeles
PhD Candidate
,
University of California, Los Angeles
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
,
University of Warwick
PhD Student
,
University of California, Los Angeles
 Guido Bartolini
FWO Postdoctoral Fellow
,
Ghent University
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