Global Memories WG | The Coloniality and Decolonising of Memory NUBS 2.04
Jul 05, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230705T1330 20230705T1500 Europe/London 4.5. GLOBAL MEMORIES WORKING GROUP PANEL III – GEOGRAPHIES, SOCIETIES AND CHANGES

Jan Assmann considered "global memories" 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: "The 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 chan ...

NUBS 2.04 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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Jan Assmann considered "global memories" 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: "The 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 combines considerations of geographies, societies and larger historical changes in relation to global memory dynamics. Sunjay Mathuria discusses urban memorialization in contested cities and the narratives of difficult heritage by analysing the troubles in Belfast and the partition of Lahore. Nicolás Ramos Flores then describes kaleidoscopes of memory, a constant loop of past-present-future traumas at once in Puerto Ricans subaltern experience of a neo-colony. Christian Alvarado continues by discussing the tropes in which "myths of Mau Mau" are embedded when they are circulated and interface with wider, even global memory dynamics. Jarula M. I. Wegner lastly considers struggles between history and memory as a central contestation of concepts in changing communities. Each of these presentations analyses societies embedded within specific geographies, how their memories enter global dynamics and the consequent transformations of societies, cultures and memories themselves.



Sunjay Mathuria

Urban Memorialization in Contested Cities and the Narratives of Difficult Heritage

The purpose of this paper is to explore the theme of 'global memories' by sharing preliminary findings from my dissertation project, which focuses on the narrativization of memories of the Troubles in Belfast and Partition in Lahore. I begin by examining three types of place-based narratives through walking: urban planning, heritage and literary. I then consider the ways in which narratives of memory demonstrate a tension across local, national, and global scales and explore processes of selective remembering/forgetting that may collude with neoliberal practices of urban development and support nationalization projects. By coupling planning and heritage narratives with literary stories, I wonder: how might literary or artistic interventions offer more nuanced, striated understandings of urban memory? By focusing on Belfast's City Centre and Lahore's Walled City, I think about storytelling as a mode of memorialization that engages with the "difficult heritage" (Macdonald 2009) of the Troubles and Partition. I will then discuss the theoretical frameworks of my comparative analysis from a spatial and urban perspective, including multidirectional memory (Rothberg 2009), postmemory (Hirsch 1992) and melancholy survivals (Llyod 2000). This is followed by a discussion of my methodological approach of walking interviews and how this practice aids a more embodied understanding of how planners, heritage practitioners and writers move through their urban spaces as they narrativize memories of conflict and the ways this impacts their work. How might storytelling and walking open up more inclusive and just ways of remembering?


Nicolás Ramos Flores

Kaleidoscopes of Memory: Puerto Ricans, Trauma, and the Neo-Colony

In this paper, I build a theoretical framework for memory constructions that I call kaleidoscopes of memory. Using an interdisciplinary approach to theorize memory formations I show how memory for Puerto Ricans is an ongoing and enduring legacy of colonial, gendered, racial, and political traumas in and out of the archipelago. For Puerto Ricans, memory is not just a singular articulation of past events but a series of continuous contemporary structures that merge into an ever-present memorial existence. Due to the continuity of colonial structures, questions of time and space within traumatic memorialization are contested by their perpetuity––situating Puerto Ricans in a constant loop of past-present-future traumas at once. I house my theorization in the Puerto Rican experience and use their migratory patterns and current colonial status as a case study for broader global understandings of trauma for minoritized peoples. I engage with scholars such as Stef Craps and Michael Rothberg to move away from Euro-American-centric views of memory and move away from singular, events-based understandings to provide a more wholistic framework on memory. Moreover, scholars like David Scott, Antonio Benitez Rojo and Yarimar Bonilla inform help in constructing the kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the ever-changing yet repeating systems of oppressions that function together within memory constructs. This project contributes to the ever-expanding understanding within memory and trauma studies that acknowledges the diverse memorial constructs by subaltern peoples.


Christian Alvarado

On Mau Mau and Memory

The year 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya, during which the British colonial administration and its allies fought to suppress the burgeoning liberation struggle to which the name "Mau Mau" became attached. Since the end of the Emergency, this event has continued to be invoked in myriad discussions and analyses addressing the nature of (anti)colonialisms and decolonization across the globe. This paper examines both how tropes of Mau Mau are deployed across different semiotic landscapes and the ways in which their operations are made manifest through practices of reading - practices which are tethered to the ways in which it is embedded in global memory. I argue that we should consider invocations of Mau Mau, whether they be central or present a mere detail, as a catalyst through which broader claims are made, especially as they relate to the nature of History and the semiotic dimensions of the events that populate it. This talk will show how the tropes in which "myths of Mau Mau" are embedded interface with the global dimensions of its memory by examining a selection of literary and historical sources. Through probing the nature of this specific interface, we gain a more robust understanding of how major events in African decolonization (and processes of decolonization in general) are mobilized and circulate through shared registers of memory


Jarula M. I. Wegner

Struggles between History and Memory: Contested concepts in changing communities

The relation of history and memory has been subject to a longstanding and complex debate which preceded the field of memory studies (Foucault 1999; Le Goff 1992) and since its formation has become a central site of contention (Sierp 2021). In this discourse, one side describes history as the general concept within which memory constitutes one subcategory (Nora 1989; Trouillot 1995; Yerushalmi 1982), while the other side describes memory as umbrella term, within which historiography presents one form of engaging with memories (Burke 1989; Erll 2008; Novick 1988). A third party seeks to negotiate between both positions, emphasising the importance of both history and memory, their distinction and negotiation (Assmann 2020; 2008). Jeffrey K. Olick and Joyce Robbins argue therefore that "[t]he distinction between history and memory […] is a matter of disciplinary power rather than of epistemological privilege" (Olick and Robbins 1998, 110).

Hazel V. Carby's critically acclaimed text Imperial Intimacies (2019), I argue, highlights that the distinction between history and memory is subject to larger historical formations and contestations. Building on cultural critique developed with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Carby engaged in a two decades spanning investigation including field work, archival research and close readings to reconstruct her family's genealogy as daughter of a white Welsh mother and black Jamaican father. Rather than establishing a coherent, smooth and expansive narrative, Carby emphasises the constructedness and fragmentariness of the findings. She highlights the ways in which memory, history and style remain conflictual (Carby 2019, 3). Beyond disciplinary power, Carby's Imperial Intimacies demonstrates that the distinction between memory and history is subject to larger dynamics of changing communities-such as colonisation, decolonisation and international protest movements-that challenge established norms of narrating the past, who is allowed to remember, when and what?

PhD researcher
,
Concordia University, Montreal
Assistant Professor of Spanish
,
Colby College
Postdoctoral Researcher
,
University of California, Davis
Hundred Talents Young Professor
,
Zhejiang University
Associate Professor
,
KU Leuven
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