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.
Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.
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 Abstract
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
Deustches Haus, Columbia University 6:00 PM
Legacies of Perpetration: Confronting my Family's Nazi Pastor
Roger Frie, Simon Fraser University (Canada) Abstract
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.
Deutsches Haus, Columbia University 6:00 PM
Heimat (Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home)
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
523 Butler Library, Columbia University 4:00 PM
Women Mobilizing Memory: Book launch with panel and reception
The recently published eponymous anthology Women Mobilizing Memory (CUP, 2019) is a transnational exploration of the intersection of feminism, history, and memory that shows how the recollection of violent histories can generate possibilities for progressive futures. Several of the book's contributors will share brief presentations, including: Isin Osol, independent curator based in Turkey, Austria, and the U.S.; Maria Jose Contreras Lorenzini, artist and scholar based in Chile; Alisa Solomon, author, teacher, dramaturg, and director of the Arts & Culture MA program at Columbia's J-School; Andrea Crow, Assistant Professor of English at Boston University; Deva Woodly, New School University Associate Professor of Politics; and Banu Karaca, sociocultural anthropologist at the Istanbul Policy center, Sabanci University. There will also be comments from the Columbia University Dean of Humanities Sarah Cole and Columbia University's George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities JeanHoward. This event is co-sponsored by the Cultural Memory Seminar, the Columbia University Dean of Humanities, Columbia University Press, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities.
In tandem with the anthology's debut, participants are digitizing the Harlem Memory Walk created in 2015 by former graduate students in Women Mobilizing Memory, including R. Ertug Altinay, Andrea Crow, Nicole Gervasio, Alyssa Greene, Henry Castillo, and Leticia Robles-Moreño. The walk, which will be available to the public via PocketSights, a free mobile app, introduces participants to both well-known and forgotten sites of African Americans', women's, and LGBTQI resistance in Harlem. We invite you to take the walk yourself or in small groups. Although a direct link is forthcoming, download the app to your smartphone today.
The Women Mobilizing Memory working group will also host a follow-up panel discussion and book presentation: "Reclaiming Collective Memories in Contemporary Turkey" on Wednesday, November 20, 7:00 - 8:30 pm (location TBA, Columbia University). In the frame of the recently published volume Women Mobilizing Memory, editors and contributors will talk about their contribution to the book in an Armenian/Turkish context. Featured artists and writers for this event include Nicole Gervasio, Nancy Kricorian, Silvina Der Meguerditchian and Aylin Tekiner with moderator Jean Howard.
Notes: Co-sponsored with the Center for the Study of Social Difference
Buell Hall (Maison Française), Columbia University 4:30 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
How do we "remember" things that did not happen to us? Neuroscience has made remarkable discoveries about ways in which our brains and bodies can be affected by traumatic experiences of our parents. We know that children born to survivors of cataclysmic events are themselves more susceptible to stress, and at greater risk of mental illnesses like PTSD, despite never having experienced the trauma themselves. Epigenetics, the in-utero environment, early experiences, and the parent-child relationship all play a role. These discoveries have spurred a compelling field of research into intergenerational trauma, revealing a complexity of biological and psychological interactions determining risk or resilience - but what does this new knowledge mean for survivors and their children? Scholars in the humanities and arts have long explored the lived experiences of those who feel they have inherited trauma from past generations. What can neuroscientists learn from these explorations, and what can other disciplines take from advances in neuroscience? We hear from pioneering researchers, clinicians, and scholars as they make sense of how the remote past gets under the skin to affect the present.
Room 417, Mathematics Building, Columbia University 7:00 PM
Reclaiming Collective Memories in Contemporary Turkey
Nicole Gervasio, Nancy Kricorian, Silvina Der Meguerditchian and Aylin Tekiner , with moderator Jean Howard