The University of California at Los Angeles presents this comparative and cross-cultural conference to explore how nations, societies, and individuals in the past half-century have attempted to confront and "come to terms" with their troubling pasts.
Distinguished scholars, journalists, and public figures will engage in a wide-ranging comparative conversation that extends over the central political events of the past half-century, while pointing to the intricacies and moral imperative of constructing group memory in the wake of collective trauma.
Conference co-organizers are Professors Saul Friedlander and David Myers.
SUNDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2001
Panel I — Morning Session
Confronting the Past I: The Paradigmatic Case of the Holocaust
Moderator: Janet Hadda, University of California at Los Angeles
Richard Falk, Princeton University
Dan Diner, Tel Aviv University
Omer Bartov, Brown University
Richard Hovannisian, University of California at Los Angeles
Commentator: Elazar Barkan, Claremont Graduate School
Panel II — Afternoon Session
Confronting the Past II: Legal Responses
Moderator: Lynn Hunt, University of California at Los Angeles
Paul van Zyl, Transitional Justice Program, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
Lawrence Weschler, The New Yorker Magazine
John Borneman, Cornell University
Commentator: Jonathan Miller, Southwestern Law School.
Panel III — Evening Session
Confronting the Past III: Culture and the Memorialization of Memory
Moderator: Debora Silverman, University of California at Los Angeles
Michael Berenbaum, Berenbaum Group
Mary Jane Lenz, National Museum of the American Indian
Karen Ishizuka, Japanese American National Museum
MONDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2001
Panel IV — Morning Session
Confronting the Past IV: Memory, Money, and the Politics of Reparations
Moderator: Ivan Berend, University of California at Los Angeles
Henry Greenspan, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, will present his one-person show, “Remnants,” based on his interviews with Holocaust Survivors as the 1939 Club Annual Memorial Lecture.
Presentations are free and open to the public.
For more information, e-mail Alexandra Garbarini, conference coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference explores how nations, societies, and individuals in the past half-century have attempted to confront and "come to terms" with their troubling pasts. Given the extraordinary violence that has characterized this century, many nations' pasts are marked by episodes of extreme criminality and/or trauma. We seek to explore the ways in which these pasts are remembered, avenged, and adjudicated in a comparative, cross-cultural context embracing post-Holocaust Europe, Latin America, Asia, South Africa, and the United States.
The paradigmatic act of extraordinary collective violence perpetrated in this century is the Holocaust. It also has become the paradigm for legal, economic, and cultural responses to state-sponsored criminality. This is not to address the question of whether the Holocaust is a unique historical phenomenon. Rather, our aim is to encourage study of the way in which various modes of confronting the legacy of the Holocaust have been adopted or consciously ignored by other nations or societies in excavating their traumatic (and often criminal) pasts. In particular, we are interested in three paradigmatic modes of confronting the the traumatic past—legal, economic, and cultural—in search of what might be called mnemonic justice.
The first of these approaches focuses upon the difficult process of bringing the perpetrators of criminal deeds to justice. The postwar model for this task emerged in 1945-46 with the Nuremberg Trials, an unprecedented legal event closely linked to the birth of the modern notion of human rights, as well as to the principle that the leaders and citizens of aggressor nations can be held legally and morally accountable for criminal actions. In recent years, other nations have attempted to bring to justice perpetrators of large-scale crimes. In the reconstituted nations of Communist Eastern Europe, in South Africa, and in Latin America, different approaches have been adopted in the search for justice. While some have adopted the radical strategy of purging the perpetrators—the so-called process of "lustration" or purification—others have utilized the principle of amnesty, using "truth commissions," rather than the courts, to achieve a measure of justice. These approaches reflect competing views of the merits of remembrance: is preservation of memory or its effacement more likely to attain a state of social equilibrium? This question will hover over the deliberations of our conference.
The second major approach to be explored is the set of cultural practices of remembrance, representation, and commemoration. Through novels, films, monuments, and museum exhibitions, artists and scholars have attempted to come to terms with the difficult historical legacies of their countries. Perhaps the most important of these has been the didactic approach of museum exhibitions. Among the most public forms of "mastering" the past, museum exhibitions provide the opportunity to educate the nation's citizenry about the crimes of the past and the necessity of preventing their recurrence in the future. One of the most visible of these museums has been the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Dedicated in 1993, the museum has become a place of remembrance, but also of controversy. For in directing attention towards the suffering of European Jewry, some critics believe it has served to shift attention away from the United States's own treatment of African Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans. The current effort to create museums for the first two groups on the Mall in Washington D.C., and the recent completion of a museum for the latter in Los Angeles, highlights the importance of the Holocaust in fostering a broader awareness of the need to confront past atrocity. Comparing these institutions' approaches to documenting and preserving the memory of past criminality will add an important perspective on the act of confronting the past.
The third and final approach in confronting divisive pasts has been the economically based strategy of reparations. Where the legal efforts to come to terms with the past have largely focused upon the deeds of the perpetrators, its economic variant has revolved more centrally around the needs of the victims. In the Holocaust and other cases of atrocity, millions of men, women, and children suffered not only physical torment, but economic deprivation. Whether through the seizure of their assets or through their exploitation as slave laborers, these individuals or their descendents have attempted to achieve a measure of economic justice by having the perpetrator nations pay reparations. In the case of Germany, governmental reparations have been paid to Holocaust survivors, but in recent years private concerns, including banks, insurance companies, and industrial enterprises have wrestled with the question of doing so as well. Moreover, the question of reparations for other aggrieved groups, such as Chinese and Korean victims of Japanese aggression in World War II (most notably, the so-called "comfort women"), the descendants of African American slaves, and others, have begun to demand similar compensation. The extent to which such financial settlements can bring about some degree of personal and collective solace will comprise an important question addressed in the conference.
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Fax: (413) 451-7247
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