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Justice of Memory

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Organizer: Isabel von Holt

Co-Organizer: Nicole Sütterlin

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Since Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Hayden White and others have challenged the traditional, dualistic historiographical structures of “core vs. rest” or “center vs. margin,” the canon of history and literary history has become increasingly diverse. On a larger cultural scale, since the 1990s various societies have changed their memory politics in what expert Aleida Assmann has called an “ethical turn in memory culture” of global proportions. Germany has been seen as a leader in this shift: in a national effort to take responsibility for the wrongs of national socialism, the country initiated an emphasis on anamnesis rather than silence, on commemorating the victims rather than the heroes of war, persecution, and injustice. But this and other new memory cultures have not gone unchallenged. The proposed panel seeks to address current tendencies in the construction of memory. What are the strategies by which we remember our past, and who do these strategies benefit or exclude? How just or unjust are the processes of writing and making history? How do a country’s memory practices shape its identity for future generations? From a socio-political standpoint, the current moment calls precisely for such investigations, given the global rise in “zero-sum” thinking and “friend vs. enemy” dichotomies. From a philosophical standpoint, the panel seeks to inquire into the ways in which e.g. Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics of the other, Jacques Derrida’s call for hospitality, or Edouard Glissant’s demand for the “right to opacity” can help us address the rise of such dualistic thinking, present and past. In the so-called “post-factual” age, where opinions have the power to become facts regardless of their truth or falsehood, it is also crucial to analyze these dualisms from a historiographical perspective: how does the way we write history change in the digital age? Do new media spur new forms of exclusion and inequality, or can they foster unprecedented forms of democratic community-building, as envisioned by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri? Last but not least, and cutting across these three perspectives, we seek to investigate how art and especially literature addresses such transformations in memory culture, from the post-war period to the present. We are particularly interested in strategies which have subverted dominant narratives in order to promote social change and justice. Topics may include but are not limited to: recent changes in memory culture and memory politics, and their literary and philosophical counterparts transformations of memory processes in the digital age memory culture as (national) identity formation anamnesis vs. amnesia/collective silence strategies to diversify the literary canon paradigms of a just historiography and memory practice that includes minority discourses such as race, homosexuality, women, disability, migration and others hegemonic historiography vs. subversive or alternative forms of writing

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