Memory, Activism and Social Justice TFDC 1.17
Jul 07, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230707T1100 20230707T1230 Europe/London 9.3. Remembering Activism

In this panel we will present some of the outcomes of the ongoing Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe project (ReAct) at the University of Utrecht. More information at: www.rememberingactivism.eu. Central to this project is the role of cultural mediation in the memory-activism nexus.Our presentations at the MSA will speak to each other around the different ways in which the memory of historical activism feeds into – modelling, inspiring, containing – later struggles for social justice and/or claims to political legitimacy.

Sophie van den Elzen (Utrecht University)

Rudi Dutschke Transnationally Remembered1968 has become canonised as part of modern transnational European cultural memory, and the near-fatal attack on student leader Rudi Dutschke is a key chapter in this story. However, whereas the transnational dimension of the student protests is broadly celebrated now, scholars have pointed out this narrative also been used to delegitimize student protests. This paper uses journalistic coverage of the Dutschke attack, its aftermath and its memory in later decades as a window on the discursive construction of 1968 as a transnational event. It compares key moments in coverage across major liberally-oriented national newspapers: Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, the Times and the NRC (Dutch). By tracing the framing of Dutschke's legacy the paper casts light on the role of memory in the narrative construction of political (de)legitimacy and shows how this plays out across different national contexts.

Daniele Salerno (Utrecht University)

"This year the angriest are on the frontline": Disciplining LGBT+ Memories

In 2019 the Heritage of Pride, organizer of the NYC Pride, sent a list of rules to participants of ...

TFDC 1.17 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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In this panel we will present some of the outcomes of the ongoing Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe project (ReAct) at the University of Utrecht. More information at: www.rememberingactivism.eu. Central to this project is the role of cultural mediation in the memory-activism nexus.
Our presentations at the MSA will speak to each other around the different ways in which the memory of historical activism feeds into – modelling, inspiring, containing – later struggles for social justice and/or claims to political legitimacy.



Sophie van den Elzen (Utrecht University)

Rudi Dutschke Transnationally Remembered

1968 has become canonised as part of modern transnational European cultural memory, and the near-fatal attack on student leader Rudi Dutschke is a key chapter in this story. However, whereas the transnational dimension of the student protests is broadly celebrated now, scholars have pointed out this narrative also been used to delegitimize student protests. This paper uses journalistic coverage of the Dutschke attack, its aftermath and its memory in later decades as a window on the discursive construction of 1968 as a transnational event. It compares key moments in coverage across major liberally-oriented national newspapers: Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, the Times and the NRC (Dutch). By tracing the framing of Dutschke's legacy the paper casts light on the role of memory in the narrative construction of political (de)legitimacy and shows how this plays out across different national contexts.


Daniele Salerno (Utrecht University)

"This year the angriest are on the frontline": Disciplining LGBT+ Memories

In 2019 the Heritage of Pride, organizer of the NYC Pride, sent a list of rules to participants of the 50th anniversary march from the "Stonewall Riots". Nudity, any type of sexual act, blasphemy and alcohol were strictly forbidden and organizers requested participants to march all at the same pace. These rules are informed by politics of respectability and the value of social decency, which feed back into the memory of the event marches commemorate: by disciplining activist behavioral codes, respectability and decency tend also to discipline the memory of the event that marches are supposed to commemorate, as result of the articulation and retroactive loop between memory in activism (the marches as commemorative vehicle) and memory of activism (how past activism is remembered).

However, radical activists in NYC disrupted the institutional commemorative program with the slogan "The First Pride was a Riot", which has spread worldwide in the last years for protesting against politics of respectability in, and commodification of, LGBT+ marches. By remembering Stonewall as a riot, activists try to re-align, from their perspective, the nature of the march as commemorative vehicle to the supposed nature of the commemorated event. My presentation navigates this tension, reading it as a form of friction between "memory of activism" (how LGBT+ protests are remembered) and "memory in activism" (how this memory is incorporated in marches or protests).


Duygu Erbil (Utrecht University)

Appealing to the "Court of History": the Work of Articulation in the Afterlife of Deniz Gezmiş

The Turkish revolutionary Deniz Gezmiş was executed in 1972 alongside two comrades after a military trial in an era marked by challenges to the legitimacy of the judicial system. Subsequent commemorative writing further questioned the legitimacy of the trial and cultural actors played an important role in framing the execution through a melodramatic modality that addressed the "court of history". This marked the beginning of a prolific production of life narratives of Gezmiş that continues to the present day. These acts of literary witnessing established a dominant model of revolutionary subjectivity that remembers historical injustice and hence formulates cultural remembrance as a contentious political practice. The execution of Deniz Gezmiş and his friends has ever since been remembered through the semantic field of 'law', forging strong connections between the memory of Gezmiş and the concept of justice.

In the form of political commemoration, remembering Deniz Gezmiş became bearing witness to historical injustice, addressing the "court of history" for a justice to come. This paper analyses how cultural actors in Turkey articulated the mnemonic discourse of the "court of history" to shape the social meanings of the revolutionary past. Life narratives of Gezmiş in the 1970s assumed an attitude of defiant remembrance that produced the subject position of the "revolutionary witness" who wields legal and literary discourses against state repression. This paper takes its cue from Stuart Hall's theory of articulation to analyse these connections forged by cultural actors in Turkey and argues that defiant remembrance is the work of articulation.


Clara Vlessing (Utrecht University)

Red Emma, Red Rosa and the Red Virgin: Remembering Revolutionary Women in Graphic Auto/biographies

The late 2000s and early 2010s saw a boom in the publication of graphic auto/biographies (Stanley 1992) on historical radicals. From Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón's 2009 Che: A Graphic Biography to Peter Bagge's 2013 Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, the lives of individual revolutionaries have been repeatedly rendered and circulated in verbal-visual forms. Exploring this proliferation, this paper argues that "radical graphics" (Nayar 2016) interpellate their reader as a potential activist. I develop this argument through the analysis of three graphic auto/biographies that remember turn-of-the-century revolutionary women: Sharon Rudahl's A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman (2007), Kate Evans's Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015), and Bryan and Mary M. Talbot's The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia (2016) on Louise Michel. Existing studies have pointed to the appeal and accessibility of graphic histories, often exploring their pedagogical facility (Kristofferson and Orpana 2018). With this in mind, my analysis reflects on the "multi-modal[ity] and cross-discursiv[ity]" (Whitlock and Poletti 2008) of these comics and correspondingly on their ability to construct an involved reader who makes connections between text and image. As they co-create the meaning of Goldman, Luxemburg and Michel's lives, the readers of these graphic memoirs are called upon to make links between these radicals' actions in the past and their own in the present. In doing so these texts stand as dynamic examples of the memory of activism (Rigney 2016), which themselves perform a mobilising or community-building role.


Ann Rigney (Utrecht University)

Anticipatory memory in activism

The Occupy Wall Street (2011) had an 'Archives Working Group'; five years later, the Nuit Debout also spawned a committee for shared memory ('mémoire commune') charged with archiving the movement. Building on Message (2019), this paper reflects on such self archiving among activists and its implications for our understanding of the memory-activism nexus. Especially as movements begin to lose momentum, archiving becomes a way of converting activist energy into a prospective memory. In this presentation, the archiving practices of the Nuit Debout movement will be analyzed in particular for what it tells us both about anticipatory remembrance in activism and about how the archival ruins of foreclosed movements are later used in re activating and re-interpretating their aspirations. 

Dr.
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Utrecht University
affiliated researcher
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Utrecht University
PhD Candidate
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Utrecht University
dr
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Utrecht University
Professor
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Utrecht University
A/Professor
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The Australian National University
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