Beyond Disciplinary Communities NUBS 3.07
Jul 04, 2023 11:30 - 13:00(Europe/London)
20230704T1130 20230704T1300 Europe/London 1.7. Representation and Narratives in Environmental Memory: Thinking through Ecocide|Genocide

The scale and scope of anthropogenic climate change practically defies the human capacity to grasp the crisis particularly within the context of daily life. Mass extinction, desecration of biodiversity, cataclysmic climate emergencies – concepts and phenomena that should not be understood as acceptable have become "normal". Perhaps the best language – both conceptual and critical – that we have to describe the climate crisis in human terms is genocide. Memory Studies scholars have been engaging with traumatic histories for years. We've developed tools for contending with difficult knowledge. What, if any of these tools are applicable to thinking through ecocide? In this panel, environmental memory scholars and practitioners explore the relationship between genocide and ecocide as it manifests in literature, museums, film, art, and site-specific installations. Can these immersive created environments help readers/visitors/audiences engage critically with the devastating impact human actions and choices have on natural environments?

Rick Crownshaw

War and Environmental Memory: Tim O'Brien's Fictions of the Vietnam WarThe environmental dimensions of the ongoing war on Ukraine - including nuclear war - reminds of the need for a recalibration of cultural memory studies in face of modern warfare – to enable the remembrance of the ways that human violence and loss in separable from its entanglements with and mediation by the nonhuman. This paper, at the beginning of a project on war, cultural memory and the Anthropocene that mines the archive of modern and contemporary war fiction for its environmental dimensions, seeks to develop ways of reading the literary remembrance of the eco logics of war. This paper turns to American novelist Tim ...

NUBS 3.07 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The scale and scope of anthropogenic climate change practically defies the human capacity to grasp the crisis particularly within the context of daily life. Mass extinction, desecration of biodiversity, cataclysmic climate emergencies – concepts and phenomena that should not be understood as acceptable have become "normal". Perhaps the best language – both conceptual and critical – that we have to describe the climate crisis in human terms is genocide. Memory Studies scholars have been engaging with traumatic histories for years. We've developed tools for contending with difficult knowledge. What, if any of these tools are applicable to thinking through ecocide? In this panel, environmental memory scholars and practitioners explore the relationship between genocide and ecocide as it manifests in literature, museums, film, art, and site-specific installations. Can these immersive created environments help readers/visitors/audiences engage critically with the devastating impact human actions and choices have on natural environments?



Rick Crownshaw

War and Environmental Memory: Tim O'Brien's Fictions of the Vietnam War

The environmental dimensions of the ongoing war on Ukraine - including nuclear war - reminds of the need for a recalibration of cultural memory studies in face of modern warfare – to enable the remembrance of the ways that human violence and loss in separable from its entanglements with and mediation by the nonhuman. This paper, at the beginning of a project on war, cultural memory and the Anthropocene that mines the archive of modern and contemporary war fiction for its environmental dimensions, seeks to develop ways of reading the literary remembrance of the eco logics of war. This paper turns to American novelist Tim O'Brien's late twentieth century literary representations of the traumatic experience of combat in the Vietnam War and post traumatic and post war life in America. The paper departs from the usual readings of O'Brien's novels as canonical trauma fiction, underwritten by the orthodoxies of trauma theory of the 1990s with its insistence on individuated responses to unprecedented experience, the belated return from repression of those experiences and the disruption of their remembrance, cognition, and narrative representation. Such interpretations risk obfuscating the imperial and colonial dimensions of the Vietnam War, the relationship between trauma and the perpetration of violence, and related ecological contexts of war. Drawing on recent intersections of ecocriticism and the emergent field of environmental memory studies, this paper reconceptualises trauma, to elicit the ecology of warfare inscribed in O'Brien's novels – the catastrophic entanglements of human and nonhuman worlds. Drawing on environmental memory studies' recalibration of the temporal and spatial scales along which events to be remembered unfold, and the ways those events are the effects of human nonhuman assemblages, this paper finds in O'Brien's fictive traumas the registration of the ways that the nonhuman world has been instrumentalised in violence and is shaped by the aftermath of that violence (Pugliese) – the eco systemic and, indeed, ecocidal nature of the Vietnam War (Zierler; Weisberg).

Bio: Rick Crownshaw teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of


Stef Craps

An Inconvenient Comparison: Climate Change through the Lens of the Holocaust

Despite being widely regarded as posing a new and unprecedented threat to human civilization and perhaps even human life on this planet, climate change is often culturally imagined in terms of past historical traumas. In this paper, I will explore how the spectre of the Holocaust in particular haunts contemporary representations of the climate emergency, ranging from (frequently controversial) statements by public figures to historical accounts and literary texts. The Nazi genocide's discomforting and insistent presence can be explained by the fact that it is the closest thing we have to an analogue for the human caused loss of life on a massive scale for which we appear to be headed, as well as by the appeal of the "never again" imperative of Holocaust commemoration, which is invoked in an effort to avert catastrophic climate change. The shadow of this earlier event that looms over the current climate crisis can be productively interpreted through Marianne Hirsch's concept of postmemory, which describes the ways in which later generations inherit the traumatic memories of their ancestors, and Michael Rothberg's notion of multidirectional memory, which refers to a non competitive mode of comparative remembrance. Future oriented concepts such as anticipatory memory (Craps) and pre trauma (Kaplan; Saint Amour) help shed further light on these Holocaust climate change linkages.

Bio: Stef Craps is a professor of English literature at Ghent University, where he directs the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative. His research interests lie in twentieth century and contemporary literature and culture, memory and trauma studies, postcolonial theory, and ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. He is the author of Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Out of Bounds (2013) and Trauma and Ethics in the Novels of Graham Swift: No Short Cuts to Salvation (2005), a co author of Trauma (2020), and a co editor of Memory Unbound: Tracing the Dynamics of Memory Studies (2017). He has (co )edited special issues of journals including American Imago, Studies in the Novel, and Criticism on topics such as ecological grief, climate change fiction, and transcultural Holocaust memory.


Susanne C. Knittel

Ecologies of Violence: Scales of Complicity in Contemporary German Family Novels

Over the past two decades, the multigenerational family novel has emerged as one of the defining cultural forms in the German-speaking world for tackling difficult questions surrounding guilt, responsibility, and complicity in large-scale violence. By revisiting the past through the prism of a single family across generations, these novels draw connections between different and seemingly disparate histories of violence. Scholars in memory and postcolonial studies have explored how family novels negotiate the twin legacies of German colonialism and the Holocaust, but so far one salient feature has gone largely unnoticed: their preoccupation with the more-than-human dimension of violence and memory. These texts are pervaded by the material traces of violence against animals, plants, and ecosystems, which intersects in complex ways with the families' entanglement in colonial and genocidal violence. In this paper I explore the implications of this ecological dimension, focusing on three paradigmatic examples, Stephan Wackwitz's Ein unsichtbares Land (2003), Christof Hamann's Usambara (2007), and Amanda Lasker-Berlin's Iva atmet (2021). All three novels, I argue, can be read as "scaling devices" that, implicitly or explicitly, highlight the ecological impact of colonial and genocidal violence and, conversely, make processes like climate change and species extinction legible as (slow) violence. The family novel thus constitutes a key cultural site for representing complex (and often indirect) involvement in violence across temporal and geographic scales.

Bio: Susanne Knittel is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She is the author of The Historical Uncanny: Disability, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Holocaust Memory (Fordham UP, 2015; German translation Unheimliche Geschichte: Grafeneck, Triest, und die Politik der Holocaust-Erinnerung, Transcript 2018). She is the editor, with Kári Driscoll, of "Memory after Humanism," a special issue of Parallax (2017) and, with Zachary Goldberg, of The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies (2019). She is the founder of the Perpetrator Studies Network and editor-in-chief of JPR: The Journal of Perpetrator Research.


Sophie Decroupet

Translating memories of environmental loss in the museum

The mission of many Natural History museums to preserve and display nature acquires new meanings as we experience the early consequences of the environmental crisis. In the face of mass extinction, some institutions have set to collect and display the endlings of species as taxidermy specimens. Others have made it their role to educate visitors about the environmental crisis more broadly, or to motivate positive environmental action. This paper builds on previous research on memory in the Anthropocene (Dipesh Chakrabarty, Stef Craps, Richard Crownshaw) as well as on memory and museums (Amy Sodaro, Silke Arnold-de Simine). It presents a case study to discuss a shift from natural history to environmental memory found in several museums. I focus my analysis on a display at the Museum of Natural History in Brussels. In this display, memories of environmental loss are shared with visitors by way of fictional audio testimonies. The recordings are focused on lived consequences of the environmental crisis from several places in the world. They are told from various but always human perspectives and are presented in front of a grey cityscape hiding animal specimens. A translational approach allows me to study how the museum's multimodal and multilingual choices create specific settings for environmental memory. Analyzing the role of translation in this display also highlights how it promotes the idea of a global community in the face of the environmental crisis.

Bio: Sophie Decroupet is a PhD fellow in the Department of Translation, Interpretation, and Communication at Ghent University. Her research focuses on translation and museums and combines a broad metaphorical perspective of "the museum as translation" with an analysis of translated texts. Her project aims to propose a comparative study of museums to determine the impact of translations on representations and narratives of the environmental crisis. In this context, she researches a shift from Natural History to environmental memory. 

Senior Lecturer
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Dept. of English and Creative Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor of English Literature
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Ghent University
Associate Professor
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Utrecht University
PhD Fellow
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Ghent University
 Rebecca Dolgoy
Curator of Natural Resources and Industrial Technologies
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Ingenium
 Arnoud Arps
Niels Stensen Postdoctoral Fellow
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University of Oxford | University of Amsterdam
 Ene Kõresaar
Professor of Oral History and Memory Studies
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University of Tartu
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