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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.

Marianne Hirsch

Andreas Huyssen

Sonali Thakkar

Annabelle Tseng

Meeting Schedule

11/01/2023 754 Schermerhorn, Columbia University
7:00 PM
discussion of Palestinian author Adania Shibli's novel Minor Detail


As many of you may know, Shibli's novel--which was a finalist for the National Book Award and longlisted for the International Booker Prize--was recently awarded a German literary prize, and the author was to be honored at the Frankfurt Book Fair. On 10/13, the prize ceremony was cancelled and postponed to a later date, suppressing Shibli's voice in favor of Israeli voices at the Book Fair instead.

Shibli's novel is about the politics of cultural memory and the limits of the archive as a resource for reconstructing and repairing the history of violence. Her work speaks directly to the preoccupations of this seminar and it has emerged as a cultural flashpoint in the current human and political catastrophe unfolding in Palestine and Israel. We invite members of this seminar to read this short novel, if you have not already, and come together to discuss what it teaches us about memory, and what we do with this insight in the present.

04/18/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
6:15 PM
Central America on the Move: Migration, Asylum, and Transnational Adoption


Historian Rachel Nolan and journalist Jonathan Blitzer will discuss two new books on Central America's close and fraught relations with the US., past and present. Two forms of different but related migrations have linked the regions: asylum-seeking and international adoption. Connecting the historical realities of political violence in Central America to our present immigration impasses helps us see this mass movement of people in a new way.