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The University Seminar on Cultural Memory began in 2005 as an interdisciplinary colloquium welcoming graduate students and faculty from Columbia and its neighbors. The Seminar, incepted in 2007, builds upon this already-established community and aims to further develop a vibrant interdisciplinary dialogue on contemporary issues of cultural and collective memory, including but not limited to traumatic memory, collective and national forgetting, memorialization and museology, historical consciousness and historiography, embodied memory and performance, archive and testimony. The Seminar meets monthly and, in addition to discussing chapters and works-in-progress, hosts a series of distinguished visiting speakers, working in close cooperation with relevant departments and institutes at Columbia.

Professor Marianne Hirsch

Professor Andreas Huyssen

Noni Carter

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

09/05/2019 The Rifkind Center (160 Convent Av NY 10031)
6:00 PM
The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators
Michael Rothberg, University of California, Los Angeles


When it comes to historical violence and contemporary inequality, none of us are completely innocent, Michael Rothberg argues in The Implicated Subject (Stanford University Press, 2019). We may not be direct agents of harm, but we still contribute to, inhabit, or benefit from regimes of domination that we neither set up nor control. Claiming that the familiar categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander do not adequately account for our connection to injustices past and present, and analyzing examples from transitional South Africa, contemporary Israel/Palestine, post-Holocaust Europe, and a transatlantic realm marked by the afterlives of slavery, Rothberg offers a new theory of political responsibility through the figure of the implicated subject.

Respondent: Gil Hochberg, Columbia University

Notes: Co-sponsored by Centro Primo Levi
10/01/2019 Deustches Haus, Columbia University
6:00 PM
Legacies of Perpetration: Confronting my Family's Nazi Pastor
Roger Frie, Simon Fraser University (Canada)


What does it mean to discover an unspoken Nazi past in your family? In a moment defined by chance and circumstance, I learned of my German grandfather’s support for the Nazi regime, a fact that had never been openly talked about. Using my family’s struggle with memory as a site of inquiry, I examine the process of remembering, its transmission, and dissociation as it relates to perpetrator groups, and to third generation Germans in particular. What lurks in the silences that are passed down between generations? How does Germany’s collective memory of the Holocaust relate to individual and family memory? And how do we define the moral obligations of memory, or understand the continued power of dissociation? Any answer to these questions, I suggest, points to the ethical demands of history.

10/29/2019 Deutsches Haus, Columbia University
6:00 PM
Heimat (Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home)
Nora Krug, Independent Scholar


Heimat is a revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir that tells the story of Nora Krug's attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. The book won the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award (Autobiography category), the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, and it was named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Critics, The Boston Globe, NPR, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Guardian, Time (Honorable Mention), and the Library Journal (Best Graphic Novels), among others.

Krug is an author and illustrator whose work has appeared in mulitple publications around the world. She was named Illustrator of the Year 2019 by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Discussant: Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

Notes: Co-sponsored by Deutsches Haus, Columbia University
11/08/2019 523 Butler Library, Columbia University
4:00 PM
Women Mobilizing Memory: Book launch with panel and reception

Notes: Co-sponsored with the Center for the Study of Social Difference
11/18/2019 Buell Hall (Maison Française), Columbia University
5:30 PM
Neuroscience and the study of intergenerational trauma: how does the remote past get under our skin?
Frances Champagne, University of Texas at Austin

Gabriele M. Schwab, University of California, Irvine

Rachel Yehuda, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Discussant: Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University), Moderator: Clare McCormak (Columbia University)