Remembering & Forgetting workshop

14-16 December 2009, London, UK

Cultures remember both through oral communication and through other artefacts which often cross the division between the public and the private domain. Objects known to historians as ‘ego-documents’ are first-person witnesses ranging from court records or auto/biographies to letters and diaries; these not only reveal what has been preserved but also expose gaps in recorded events. In the public domain, sites of memory, from graveyards and museums to roadside posies, mark ways of recalling that may be very temporary. Within families, communities or individuals, remembrance may focus on made or conserved objects, but it also inheres in the body and the psyche – the most painful memories often pass encrypted, as psychoanalysis has it, from generation to generation. Theory in this field has developed rapidly in the last and the present century in the light both of vast political events and of a new spirit of understanding the everyday, experienced ‘from below’. This field is studied by researchers who have adapted methods taken from literary studies into other modes of marking the passage of time through the human mind. The workshop aimed both to articulate new research questions in this area and to outline their policy relevance.

Other broad issues to be examined include:

  • The truth of memory: fact and fiction
  • Regimes of memory: spaces, texts, objects, bodies
  • Trauma and memory
  • The politics and ethics of memory; the ‘right to remember’