Human Rights & Memory WG | Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 4.08
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.5. Memory Activism, Narratives of State Violence and Contested Solidarities

This panel explores the heterogenous ways in which memory struggles play out in practice after atrocities and in the context of egregious human rights violations, weighing their implications for justice. We are interested in how state narratives and the silences of public memory are being contested and in the contributions of diverse memory activists, ranging from established memorialisation experts, to scholars, youth, victims and migrants. Our aim is to build on existing insights into the contestations over memory and their political effects, with attention to variations over time and space, and an insistence on the specificities of particular localities and moments. Certainly, the human rights regime has promoted universalist notions of memorialization that discount local knowledge (David, 2017), and nationalist frameworks continue to silence memories of state violence and contribute to the racialization of identity, erasing the experiences and agency of migrants or members of other national groups. Nevertheless, even in the most repressive contexts, memory remains a space of political struggle such that, as Jelin (1998) argues, the key analytical task is to unravel the layers and 'labours of memory,' investigating how memory and oblivion are constructed, produced and disseminated. At the empirical level, new work on memory activism contributes to this agenda, stepping back from normative assumptions to examine and compare the plural actors engaged in strategic efforts to contest the orthodoxies about the past (Gutman and Wüstenberg, 2021). At the theoretical level, scholars and activists have turned to genealogies of counter memory (Foucault) and neglected 'archives of remembrance' (Rothberg and Yildiz, 2011) to subvert hegemonic discourses and to foreground the ...

NUBS 4.08 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel explores the heterogenous ways in which memory struggles play out in practice after atrocities and in the context of egregious human rights violations, weighing their implications for justice. We are interested in how state narratives and the silences of public memory are being contested and in the contributions of diverse memory activists, ranging from established memorialisation experts, to scholars, youth, victims and migrants. Our aim is to build on existing insights into the contestations over memory and their political effects, with attention to variations over time and space, and an insistence on the specificities of particular localities and moments. Certainly, the human rights regime has promoted universalist notions of memorialization that discount local knowledge (David, 2017), and nationalist frameworks continue to silence memories of state violence and contribute to the racialization of identity, erasing the experiences and agency of migrants or members of other national groups. Nevertheless, even in the most repressive contexts, memory remains a space of political struggle such that, as Jelin (1998) argues, the key analytical task is to unravel the layers and 'labours of memory,' investigating how memory and oblivion are constructed, produced and disseminated. At the empirical level, new work on memory activism contributes to this agenda, stepping back from normative assumptions to examine and compare the plural actors engaged in strategic efforts to contest the orthodoxies about the past (Gutman and Wüstenberg, 2021). At the theoretical level, scholars and activists have turned to genealogies of counter memory (Foucault) and neglected 'archives of remembrance' (Rothberg and Yildiz, 2011) to subvert hegemonic discourses and to foreground the silences of the archives (Stoler, 2009; Trouillot, 1995). In this vein, each of our papers considers how memory is, or might be, harnessed in contesting the power of political authorities to shape memory and to define the boundaries of community. Taken together, the papers trace the elusive nexus between memory and justice, the novel and contested solidarities that emerge in memory struggles, and reveal both the limits and potentials of memory activism.



Rachel Ibreck

Rethinking memory activism from the margins: the legacies of migrant struggles for justice in Cairo

Migrant-led struggles for rights and justice are invariably pursued from the social and political margins; and are frequently subject to physical violence and political erasure. Moreover, people on the move tend to experience multiple and distinctive forms of insecurity and discrimination that are bound to undermine any efforts to conserve or reckon with the past, either collectively or individually. As such, their extraordinary forms of agency and activism are mostly publicly forgotten – and we know little about how they are remembered by either migrant activists themselves, or their communities. However, recent literature demonstrates the potential for a migration-centred perspective to disrupt dominant memory frameworks, for instance by revealing 'migrant archives of Holocaust remembrance' (Rothberg and Yildiz, 2011) and recuperating memories of migrant activism (Martínez-Conde et al., 2020). This paper builds on these insights with a focus on the memories of migrant protests in Cairo, and of their traumatic endings in state violence. It considers silences and forms of denial that persist in public memory, and covert or community-based archives and acts of remembrance initiated by migrants themselves, and by activists in solidarity with them. By drawing upon ethnographic and collaborative action research with migrants in an extreme case, it seeks to problematize and elaborate upon existing frameworks and approaches to the analysis of memory activism.


Jasna Dragović-Soso

Memory activism, remembrance and denial: the Srebrenica Memorial Centre at twenty

Until Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s represented the most brutal and prolonged conflict on European soil since the Second World War. Among the many war crimes perpetrated at that time, the 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Bosniak men and boys by Serb forces in Srebrenica stands out as the worst single instance of mass killing and the only crime of those wars legally defined as genocide. The Srebrenica Genocide has not just been an internationally recognised symbol of the 1990s wars but has been the object some of the most important and protracted memory activism since then, leading to the establishment in 2003 of a permanent memorial centre in the battery factory of Srebrenica-Potočari, where the Dutch UNPROFOR battalion (Dutchbat) had been stationed and where Bosniak refugees had been housed on the eve of the genocide in July 1995. As it approaches its twentieth anniversary, the memorial centre has established itself as a focus of Bosniak national memory and continuing memory activism, embodied by its two permanent exhibitions-the reconstructed former Dutchbat headquarters and the 'oral history project' of survivor testimony located in the former factory space-alongside a range of temporary exhibitions, conferences and commemorative activities. Yet, even today, the internationally accepted narrative of the Srebrenica genocide runs up against widespread denial among Bosnian Serbs, on both the state and societal levels. Based on written sources, participant observation and interviews with some of the leading memory activists associated with the centre, this paper will chart the continuing struggle for memory of the genocide in an unpropitious social, political and economic context and examine the obstacles to its acceptance among Bosnian Serbs. Bearing in mind the 


Jessie Barton Hronešová

The youth are the future? On memory activism and the limits of intergenerational transformation of collective memories in contemporary Serbia

The omnipresent cliché that the 'youth are the future' often implicitly contains an assumption that generations that come after wars have a transformative role in breaking conflict-based violence and spearheading social renewal (UN Security Council Resolution 2250, 9 Dec 2015). From Germany to South Africa, the youth are often hailed as the ones enquiring about the deeds of their fathers and striving for a more accurate historical record. This research problematizes these assumptions using new empirical data and an analysis of the existing youth activism in Serbia. Drawing on online focus groups conducted with 25 young university students on issues of responsibility, memory and victimhood in Serbia in 2021, the paper first examines the general patterns of collective memory among the respondents and then analyses the limits of youth activism in the country. It shows that despite impressive youth activism and 'truth' projects in Serbia, Serbian university students hold rather rigid views about the past, framed in nationalistic terms. While cognisant of the existing youth activist organisations (such as the Youth Initiative for Human Rights), their generic distrust towards the 'West' that has been nourished through a nationalist political and media climate translates into attitudes of suspicion towards youth activism on issues of reconciliation and transitional justice in general. Asking questions about the perceptions of responsibility and victimhood, this paper not only shows the limits of inter-generational transformation in memory of violence but also ponders over the prospects of youth activism in a socio-politically adverse context. 

Senior Lecturer
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Goldsmiths University of London
Professor
,
Goldsmiths University of London
Research Fellow
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Ca' Foscari, Venice
Associate Professor
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Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK)
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