International NITMES - Conference 'Memory Transfers and Transformations'

Konstanz, 25-27 June 2014


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Memory Transfers and Transformations

After a conference on ‘Memory without Borders’ (Utrecht June 2013) and ‘Diasporic Memory’
(November 2013) the series will be continued with another workshop in the framework of our
NITMES-network. It will take place at the university of Konstanz on Thursday and Friday June
26-27. The topic will be: ‘Memory Transfers and Transformations’.
Memories are continually ‘on the move’ – to recall another title of an Utrecht symposium in
2010. As they are notoriously unstable and volatile they are dependent on individuals, specific
groups and institutions as carriers, but also on spaces, media, material formats and
performances. They change their shape and quality over time as they are transferred from one
generation to the next, from primary witnesses to secondary witnesses, from a confined group
to larger audiences. They also change when they are transferred from one space to another,
crossing local and national borders. In addition to these temporal and spatial leaps, memoires
are transformed in moving from one context to another, changing their quality as they are
presented and discussed on a private and personal, a public and mediatized, and a political
level. If they are contested, such memories often move from a counter-memory to an official
memory and mainstream memory in the process. What is the quality of an official memory
when it is drained of the personal, the subversive, the emotional charge and the energy of social
strife? Some of these memories run the risk of becoming dry and stale, as the recent
discourse on ‘Memory and its Discontents’ may lead us to believe. Nor should it be forgotten
that some memoires do not move at all. They are inert, lacking a social life, remaining at best in
the status of abstract knowledge. They are stuck in the archive, lacking individuals and groups
that claim them and transform them into mobilizing or identity supporting narratives.
So the general question of the conference is a very basic one: what keeps memories alive? We
invite contributions on the social life of memories, their reactivations, reenactments, and
performances. Special attention will be paid to the affective charge of memories and the ways it
is created, prolonged, reactivated or lost in the process of transfers and transformations.