European Commission - 7th Framework Programme European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations last updated: February 2015

Competing Memories

29 October - 1 November

Amsterdam, The Netherlands | University of Amsterdam & VU University Amsterdam, Keizersgrachtkerk


Since 1945 European political integration was based on the assumption of a common cultural heritage and memory of the Holocaust. Yet, does such a mutual heritage and collective memory really exist?
After the Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and Srebrenica Massacre (1995) the assumption of the Holocaust as a common European experience, and hence as a basic part of Europe’s postwar identity raises new critical questions. The Holocaust Paradigm seems to be challenged no longer by deniers but by a much more influential ‘Double Genocide’ or ‘Occupation Paradigm’, resulting in a deep incompatibility of opinions between Western and Eastern Europe people about the impact, meaning and outcomes of very different 20th century European experiences, which asks for a fundamental rethinking of postwar politics of memory.

This interdisciplinary conference critically analyses how to present competing memories and narratives on a same site. In addition to the EU’s dynamics and clashes of memory of WWII’s terrorscapes, the conference will broaden its focus to relate both the origins and afterlives of Europe’s Age of Extremes (Hobsbawm) to the (post) colonial turn (in/against Holocaust studies), Dutch slavery/Indonesia debate, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Near East Spring revolutions and the politics of identity and occupation, and the theoretical implications of totalitarianism, occupation, terror, mass violence, trauma, and more in general the Century of the Camp (Bauman).
The promoters seek to understand, from a range of comparative approaches and methodologies, how the space-times of memory in Europe and beyond are interpreted, (re)presented, collectively remembered, instrumentalised, or silenced and forgotten. By crossing academic, artistic and professional boundaries, the conference contributes to a better understanding of the extent to which ‘memory discourses’ operate as vehicles of local, national and transnational identity politics.


Key questions and themes include:

How do competing memories of former enemies, victims and perpetrators of Nazi, communist, ethnic and nationalist terror, war and occupation relate to each other on the same sites, on local, national, and transnational levels?
How can we articulate generational memory practices (post-memory) when events are remembered across and between geopolitical discourses of war and conflict?
How is memory narrated through space?
What defines “a site” as a specific place as opposed to undefined space?
How is collective memory performed through “spatial practices” (tourism, commemorations, bodies)?
How are witnesses included and created in archives and then used in historiography?
How are places and sites transformed into heritage?
How is memory narrated, used and abused through material culture?
How are material remnants converted into traces and monumentalized, or on the contrary ignored, silenced and/or forgotten?
What are the relations between fictional and historical narrations and how are those mediated through particular ‘discursive genres’ (movies, tv-series, other mass-media and new technologies of communications)?
Which memories and narratives travel across national and transnational imaginaries and which ones fail to do so?
• What is the role of language as a vehicle of identity across trans-cultural and global phenomena of migration and diaspora, and postcolonial memories in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere?
• How do different types of memory places (memorials, museums, monuments, archaeological digs, artistic performances, ritual ceremonies, cemeteries, forgotten landscapes) and their afterlives manifest and mediate diverse memory-making policies?
• Will the EU’s identity and heritage politics in the context of integration and the eastwards enlargement foster more conflicts, or may competing memories be shared within a transnational and intergenerational perspective?
• How do processes of digitization influence new, non-nationally defined memory practices?
• How does globalization and transnational memory practices relate to local realities and experiences, and in what ways do they foster shared values, common history and culture?

» link to the Conference