Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 3.13
Jul 06, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230706T1330 20230706T1500 Europe/London 7.8. Concepts of commemoration beyond reconciliation: resistance, repair and resilience

The panel thematises the ambivalence and tensions that surround some of the major concepts and memory strategies when it comes to communities strategies for change, the ways how we can productively deal both with the violence and with emancipation. The concepts/strategies in focus are concentrated on the critique of reconciliation, and its return to sort of idealised social harmony. Apart of the different grades of critique, resistance, repair and resiliency all construct and affirm a different way of commemorating, and possibly contributing to the change of the world. Each participant will detail one concept/strategy and a case study.In the times of (post)memory, heterogeneous and complex processes that address antagonisms, splits, and violent pasts, the eminent question that is posed is not only »whose heritage« (Hall) are we uncovering, but also to highlight the epistemic departure that any heritage is already »dissonant« (Tunbridge) and ruled by whose life is deemed »grievable« (Butler). Does »agonist« perspective (Bull and Hansen) suggest a shift from memorialisation projects stemming »from above« (state level, politics) to memory initiatives and activists that embrace commemorative practices »from below« (cultural field and artistic practices)? If memory itself always already deals and carries certain resistance - memory is resistance - can strategies of repair and resilience disrupt reconciliation and what can they bring to the current debates?The panel considers examples from contexts of Sweden (Katz Thor), former Yugoslavia (Horvatinčić and Kirn), and Iran (Adjam) that deal with (post)revolutionary, feminist, partisan and antiracist legacy, and the ways how concepts and strategies of resilience, resistance and repair have been used in these con ...

NUBS 3.13 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The panel thematises the ambivalence and tensions that surround some of the major concepts and memory strategies when it comes to communities strategies for change, the ways how we can productively deal both with the violence and with emancipation. The concepts/strategies in focus are concentrated on the critique of reconciliation, and its return to sort of idealised social harmony. Apart of the different grades of critique, resistance, repair and resiliency all construct and affirm a different way of commemorating, and possibly contributing to the change of the world. Each participant will detail one concept/strategy and a case study.

In the times of (post)memory, heterogeneous and complex processes that address antagonisms, splits, and violent pasts, the eminent question that is posed is not only »whose heritage« (Hall) are we uncovering, but also to highlight the epistemic departure that any heritage is already »dissonant« (Tunbridge) and ruled by whose life is deemed »grievable« (Butler). Does »agonist« perspective (Bull and Hansen) suggest a shift from memorialisation projects stemming »from above« (state level, politics) to memory initiatives and activists that embrace commemorative practices »from below« (cultural field and artistic practices)? If memory itself always already deals and carries certain resistance - memory is resistance - can strategies of repair and resilience disrupt reconciliation and what can they bring to the current debates?

The panel considers examples from contexts of Sweden (Katz Thor), former Yugoslavia (Horvatinčić and Kirn), and Iran (Adjam) that deal with (post)revolutionary, feminist, partisan and antiracist legacy, and the ways how concepts and strategies of resilience, resistance and repair have been used in these contexts.



Gal Kirn, Assistant professor/research associate, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana

Beyond Reconciliation: Between Antagonist and Agonist (Counter)Memory

Reconciliation strategies often evoked in the post-conflictual societies through the myriads of NGOS and state memorialisation projects from the 1990s onwards have often used to embrace posit (new) national unity that pacifies the conflicts and causes of violent conflicts. Opposed to reconciliation's teleological goal of (national) harmony and unification this lecture will claim that the epistemic point of the "dissonant heritage" helps us understand the deeper social logic, that is, that we – as a community – can never attain a whole, or make society whole again. In more concrete sense we deal with juxtaposition between national unity and difference/antagonism/agonism. How to then build solidarities among the oppressed beyond ethnical lines in times of war and crisis, rather than sustain enclosure in the competition of national victimhood and glorification of a nation? Finally, there are certain lessons of burdened past and antagonisms of today, that cannot be reconciled, are irreconcilable. The memory analysis and culture should not shy away from this epistemic and political questions. This introductory lecture will open an alternative path to three conceptions: resilience, resistance and repair.


Rebecka Katz Thor, Phd, Researcher Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University

To Repair: Contested commemorations and Post-Memorial Art

How can memorial art and public commemorations be thought of as a form of repair? This paper addresses how one can consider the role of repair in current examples of memorial art in Sweden. The concept of repair can be considered as a means of handling a traumatic past, and as a site of agency and transformation. Thus, a notion of repair does neither mean to heal and move beyond, nor a return to status quo (Urban-Walker 2006, Attia 2014, Azoulay 2019).

The presentations situate and contextualizes current commemorative practices and debates in Sweden, but it also speaks to international context, related to the past decade´s demands and discussions of removal of statues and negations of commemoration in public space and how to address a difficult heritage (Combes 2003, Noam. 2003, Macdonald 2009, Sanford. 2018, Katz-Thor 2022, Rigney 2022, among others).

The examples capture the contestations between state-funded commemorations dedicated to a difficult heritage and activist art interventions aiming to challenge the who and what is commemorated in our shared spaces. Drawing upon Marianne Hirsch's work on post-memory and James Young's discussion of counter monuments, I propose a reading of the examples as a form of reparative post-memorial or post-monumental art (Hirsch 2012, Young 1994, Young 2016, Sternfeld 2021). One the one hand there are examples of public commemorations that seek to commemorate a difficult heritage, and yet, are commissioned, by the same governing body that, structurally or directly, was responsible for the oppression or wrongdoing that it wishes to commemorate, with the aim to offer repair. On the other hand, there one can see a rise of spontaneous memorials or guerilla memorial art aiming to claim the right to a public commemoration for those lives and events deemed not grievable (Butler 2009).


Sanja Horvatinčić, Research Assistant, Institute of Art History, Zagreb

Sisters in Resilience: Representation and Agency of Antifascist Women in (Post)Socialist Yugoslavia

Socialist Yugoslavia was highly prolific in post-WW2 memorial production. In many parts of the country, women were for the first time represented in public space as revolutionary historical subjects. Women also became actively engaged as decision-makers and agents (artists, architects) in the field of antifascist memorial production. The restoration of capitalism in the 1990s came with a radical shift in WW2 related memory politics in all successor nation-states, and this segment of memorial production became exposed to double negationism, both through the rise of historical revisionism, and through the neoconservative economic and gender politics. However, the figure of antifascist women partisans persisted both in the public monuments and in critically engaged and feminist visual art practice. This paper will look at the modes of representation and agency in artistic production related to the memorialization of the Peoples' Liberation Struggle in (post)Yugoslav context by focusing on the concept of "sisterhood" and it's function in the process of reconciliation, repair and resilience to (neo)liberalism and (neo)fascism. The analysis will focus on women's role in the practices of care manifested in the counter-hegemonic, self-organized and bottom-up initiatives dealing with the legacy of women's antifascist struggle and emancipation, and how they relate to ongoing struggles for women's rights.


Maryam Adjam, Uppsala University, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology

Tale of Traces: The resistance of the vanishing

Focusing on hidden and deserted graveyards for the missing, political dissidents victims of state sanctioned violence in Iran during the 1980's, this paper investigates the notion of resistance in relation to a lived and embodied heritage absent yet present. Being a battlefield of traces left and erased, traces speaking and mute, these sites both encapsulate the memory politics articulated through different historical representations of the past, as well as evoking a space of embodied memories bringing the missing to the fore as present absence. In the context of state sanctioned violence where ambiguities added by a historicity using hyper-authenticity as means, has impoverished the very language of mourning, other forms of representation are required in order to capture experiences of on-going violence. Tales of absences are rarely plain stories, outspoken and clear in content, but rather emerge as traces of ambivalence, speaking in and through the gaps and in-betweens.
By leaving a trace in the place, of something explicit and unspoken, the space of the memories of the missing appears in the movement in-between the struggle on representation and the embodiment of the memory in the place. The traces' tale, is a tale of remains still remaining, with or without names, of the afterness in what still remains. (Richter 2011, Tamm 2015) Of reclaiming the absence and bringing its presence to the fore, and by doing so, suspending the suspension. A tale of living a history embodied in non-closures, in the ambiguities constantly added and erased. Following Walter Benjamin's understanding of the historical as an on-going act of lived recognition, of an archaeology of the sight (Benjamin 1923) and Emanuel Levinas' notion of the resistant other (Levinas 2000), this paper investigates the memory work of the present absent and its role as a resistant subject. A tale of traces, becoming monuments in and through their vanishing.

Postdoc/researcher
,
University of Ljubljana
PhD, Researcher
,
Stockholm University
Research Associate
,
Institute of Art History (Zagreb)
Dr.
,
University Uppsala
Professor
,
Utrecht University
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