Global Memories WG | The Coloniality and Decolonising of Memory NUBS 2.04
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.6. GLOBAL MEMORIES WORKING GROUP PANEL II – BODIES, ARTWORKS AND OBJECTS

Jan Assmann considered "global memories" as a paradoxical notion. It appears contradictory, he wrote, because memory "functions in the direction of identity which, in all of its fuzziness, always implies a notion of difference," while globalization "works in the direction of diffusion, blurring of all boundaries and bridging all differences." Although not only the interdependence of memory and identity has been questioned but also that between globalization and homogeneity, the notion of global memories nonetheless presents a point of tension, friction and contestation.Global memories become apparent as a site of contestation when considering the historical forces driving forward globalisation, among them imperialism, colonisation and capitalist expansion. Reflecting on global culture as a product of globalization, Walter Mignolo writes: "Westernization of the planet did not erase the multiplicity of local temporalities. It only disguised them for a while. Five hundred years was a short period and a circumstantial victory to pretend that the regional time of Western modernity was universal time. The Greenwich Meridian is only a reference to administrative temporality, far from absorbing and replacing lived temporalities of human experience and ancestral memory around the planet." If globalization enforced a homogenizing process through westernization, Mignolo suggests, then this era is in decline.Mignolo continues by outlining the fundamental transformations of the present. He writes that "[t]he awareness of pluri versality is ending the epoch of one universal cosmogony, and the change of epoch comes from every corner." As changes hail from every corner, do these also spell an end to, what may be tentatively called, global memories? Or does the proliferation of confl ...

NUBS 2.04 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
15 attendees saved this session

Jan Assmann considered "global memories" as a paradoxical notion. It appears contradictory, he wrote, because memory "functions in the direction of identity which, in all of its fuzziness, always implies a notion of difference," while globalization "works in the direction of diffusion, blurring of all boundaries and bridging all differences." Although not only the interdependence of memory and identity has been questioned but also that between globalization and homogeneity, the notion of global memories nonetheless presents a point of tension, friction and contestation.

Global memories become apparent as a site of contestation when considering the historical forces driving forward globalisation, among them imperialism, colonisation and capitalist expansion. Reflecting on global culture as a product of globalization, Walter Mignolo writes: "Westernization of the planet did not erase the multiplicity of local temporalities. It only disguised them for a while. Five hundred years was a short period and a circumstantial victory to pretend that the regional time of Western modernity was universal time. The Greenwich Meridian is only a reference to administrative temporality, far from absorbing and replacing lived temporalities of human experience and ancestral memory around the planet." If globalization enforced a homogenizing process through westernization, Mignolo suggests, then this era is in decline.

Mignolo continues by outlining the fundamental transformations of the present. He writes that "[t]he awareness of pluri versality is ending the epoch of one universal cosmogony, and the change of epoch comes from every corner." As changes hail from every corner, do these also spell an end to, what may be tentatively called, global memories? Or does the proliferation of conflict, crises and changes, on the contrary, enable further globalization of memories? Debates on a possible 'end of globalization' seem to suggest increasing numbers and varieties of cultural memories with global tendencies, whether these concern neo imperialism, de westernisation, decolonisation, the Global South, social justice movements or countless other global memory forms and contents.

The Global Memories Working Group takes up the Memory Studies Association's theme of changing communities to approach the fundamental, wide ranging, and diverse social changes in relation to emerging, dominant and declining 'global memories.' This panel traces the transcultural, transoceanic and transcontinental travels of bodies, artworks and objects as sources of remembrance. Sonja Dumas explores through somatic ethnography the physical, neurobiological and psychological terror that African bodies have faced in the Middle Passage moment. Elliott Dantae continues by analysing disembodied networks of care through the barrels that travelled between the Caribbean and its diasporas to maintain and circumscribe child and auntie or child and parent relationships. Elaine Sullivan then outlines shadows of power in Freddy Tsimba's artwork "Nkisi Logic" exhibited in Belgium's Royal Museum for Central Africa introducing Congolese mnemonic techniques. Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas lastly investigates the role of art in the globalization of memories by analysing the various travels of Pablo Picasso's Guernica. Each presentation analyses the transcontinental journeys of bodies, what they left behind, what they were able to carry and how this influences the globalisation of subaltern memory forms.



Sonja Dumas

Bodies of Memory

Édouard Glissant's contention that the ocean "is a tare of [Caribbean] history" invites us to consider the profound impact that the sea has had on contemporary Caribbean life. So too does Derek Walcott's seminal poem, The Sea is History, which speaks to the notion that the sea is a repository of Caribbean memory. This history is not inscribed in texts, but in the undocumented experiences of captured people chained on a ship for between one and three months where positions of extreme vulnerability, power and the sheer force of nature come face-to-face with each other through the lens of the Middle Passage.

As an African-Caribbean Trinidad and Tobago-based dance practitioner and filmmaker, I concentrate on the intersection of African-Caribbean heritage, memory and movement in my work. Coming from a twin-island state surrounded by two large bodies of water, I often look to the Caribbean Sea or to the Atlantic Ocean for answers about the contemporary Caribbean condition.

I would like to share preliminary observations of a somatic ethnography that I am crafting as part of my practice-based PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies (St. Augustine). These will consider the immersive and liminal influences of the Atlantic Ocean in particular, and how those intersect with the interiority of physical, neurobiological and psychological terror that African bodies would have faced in the Middle Passage moment. It is an examination of how this is inscribed in contemporary Trinidad and Tobago bodies of all races and ethnicities.


Dantaé Garee Elliott 

"Disembodied Networks of Care" 

The Caribbean has been marked by a long history of migration to the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and in recent years Caribbean women have been leading a migratory shift to keep their households intact amidst socio-political and economic uncertainties. This shift has been explored through the experiences of the "barrel children" due to the separation and reunification periods between mothers and their children. These experiences highlight how Caribbean women sustain their families through remittances in the forms of material goods, often packed in a barrel. However, a material object that is broadly known throughout the Caribbean diaspora, has, remarkably, held little to no significance in the theorization of Caribbean migration and more specifically of the black female subjects that are called upon to occupy forcibly vacated positions within the family. Due to the cultural significance of the barrel, many contemporary artistic expressions in the Caribbean have used this object as a source of inspiration to highlight the stories of those who remain. Through the analysis of the film "Auntie", by Lisa Harewood, a memoir by Jamaican spoken word poet Staceyann Chin, titled The Other Side of Paradise and the exhibition Pillars by Simon Benjamin, the object and returnee reframes the transnational context in which many Caribbean diasporic creative productions are framed. How does the auntie handle this tension while continuing to provide support to the child and dreading the day they leave them? Are they able to sustain a relationship with the child after they leave? These limits are not only linked to the barrel but the limits that these relationships have (the auntie and the child/ the child and their parent/remittances and the aunties).


Elaine Ericksen Sullivan

Shadows with Power: Freddy Tsimba's "Nkisi Logic" in Belgium's Royal Museum for Central Africa"

When Belgium's Royal Museum for Central Africa reopened to the public in 2018 after five years of renovation, the institution highlighted newly commissioned artworks by contemporary Congolese artists as examples of its new "focus on decolonization." Several were featured in locations labeled "lieux de mémoire," where artists were invited to respond to architectural elements especially revealing of the museum's colonial origins. One such example is Freddy Tsimba's "Shadows," installed in the so-called "Memorial Hallway," originally built in 1934 in remembrance of Belgians who had died in Congo between 1876 and 1908. This memorial features a painted list of names on a wall opposite a long row of windows in a closed-in portico. For his intervention, Freddy Tsimba identified Congolese who had died in Belgium during that same time period, and had their names etched on the windows. When the sun shines, the names case shadows on the memorial wall. For Tsimba, these names are not just letters on glass, but rather locations meant to contain the spirits of those who had died. Tsimba echoes the logic of Congolese nkisi figures, power-objects created to attract and hold spirits, which can then be called on to act on behalf of the object's owner. Tsimba thus counters a European memorial practice with a Central African one, as many nkisi were created for specific ancestors. This paper will examine the Memorial Hallway as an example of both a countermonument (Young 1993) but also a "noeud de mémoire" (Rothberg 2010), tying together memorial traditions from different continents.


Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas

Travelling Guernica: Art and the Globalization of Memory

This paper seeks to address the role of art in the globalization of memories. More specifically, it looks at the complex memory trajectories unleashed by the travelling of well-known artworks such as Pablo Picasso's Guernica. A painting inspired by the 1937 bombing of the Basque city of Gernika, Guernica with time has become a site of cosmopolitan memory (Levy and Sznaider 2002): a universalizing symbol of human catastrophes that appeals to transnational solidarity. As Levy and Sznaider point out, in order for the memory of a particular event to be cosmopolitan or global, it has to become abstract enough to "ensure [its] recognition as universal lessons for humanity" (14). Yet abstraction is "the general process of selective attention, of fixing upon certain aspects of an object while ignoring whatever other ones" (Bäck 2014). As Guernica's significance as a symbol of the catastrophes of war has gone global, the event in which it was inspired has progressively become less known outside the Basque Country. Yet the international recognition that this event enjoyed during the 20th century is tied to the fact that aerial attacks targeting civilians were at the time of the bombing of Gernika unprecedented on European soil.

On the other hand, the globalization of Guernica is in part due to the multiple remediations that it has been the subject of. These remediations are not mere appropriations of the painting, as some scholars have suggested. Rather, artworks such as Keiskamma Guernica, a tapestry made by a collective of Xhosa women from South Africa, and Trade Canoe for Don Quixote (2004), a painting by Salish-Kootenai artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, use Guernica to articulate traumatic memories in an attempt to make them visible and relevant to our times and, at the same time, they expose and contest the colonial histories that animate the production and globalization of artworks such as Guernica.

PhD Candidate
,
University of the West Indies, St Augustine
Phd Candidate
,
New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
,
University of Johannesburg
ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Scholar
,
Arizona State University
 Jarula Wegner
Hundred Talents Young Professor
,
Zhejiang University
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions
426 visits