Memory Without Borders: Violence, Justice, and Practices of Remembrance

Vilashini Cooppan
UC Santa Cruz

Debarati Sanyal
UC Berkeley

The imperative to remember foundational traumas such as the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid, or colonialism has often led the study of memory to enshrine particular national or ethno-cultural histories. As memory studies moves towards a more transnational and transcultural orientation, however, distinct histories are currently conceptualized through models of convergence and movement: multidirectional and connective memory, cross-cultural traumatic affiliation, affective entanglements, but also, the dangers of such intersections. “Memory Without Borders” surveyed this recent development while introducing cutting edge scholarship on the consequences of the transcultural turn in memory studies for questions of justice, rights, and reparations in a global context. Today territorial dispossession, civil war, genocide, ongoing forms of apartheid, and the complex of immigration, asylum and refugee rights, raise urgent questions of rights, remembrance, and reconciliation across national and ethno-cultural boundaries, and between the scales of the individual and the collective. What can memory studies teach us about how to live in, and transform, the present? Can we think of memory in contemporary human rights culture not as property, inheritance, or commodity, but rather, as a passage to new forms of personhood, solidarity, and collectivity in a global era?

Speakers at the conference included: Marianne Hirsch (keynote), Saidiya Hartman, Rosanne Kennedy, Dirk Moses, Michael Rothberg, Eelco Runia, Silvia Tandeciarz, Vilashini Cooppan, and Françoise Vergès.

“Memory Without Borders” was made possible by a grant from the University of California Humanities Research Institute. Co-sponsors include the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Consulat général de France, the Human Rights Program, the departments of French, Spanish & Portuguese, Comparative Literature and German.