Limits of the Past
The Human Sciences and the Turn to Memory
An Interdisciplinary Graduate Colloquium
19-20 April 2002
Joseph B. Glossberg Term Professor in the Humanities Chair, Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory University of Pennsylvania
Richard H. King
Professor of American Intellectual History, University of Nottingham (UK) William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow, Vanderbilt University
Since the cultural turn in the humanities and social sciences, the place of memory in shaping cultural meaning and collective and individual action has been a focus of scholars from a wide range of fields. For many reasons—the end of the twentieth century and the millennium in western calendars; the vast deployment of nationalist myths in ethnic confrontations over the last two decades; the nostalgic trend in literature, cinema, and the media—the uses of memory have also become an ever-present marker of our own modernity. This conference seeks to explore the borders of the turn to memory to examine how memory liberates, constrains, or otherwise affects social and political possibilities. The point of the conference is less to highlight the dominance of memory in culture than to come to terms with implications of the turn to memory for interpreting social practice.
The conference is an invitation to graduate students in the humanities and social sciences to think through the nature of "memory work" in the constitution of our understanding of the world. What limitations compromise a memorial construction of the world? What are the implications of the turn to memory for scholarly praxis and disciplinarity? How do the dynamics of memory work vary within and among disciplines, their media and modes of discourse? What are the issues with which the turn to memory cannot necessarily engage? If memory is both a force for unity and collective action and a force for divisiveness and manipulation, what bearing does it have for the present? These are only some of the questions contributors might address.
We invite papers from a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) anthropology, art history, history, literature, political science, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. We also invite submissions from all historical periods. While participants are encouraged to seek funding from their own institutions, the conference organizers will award a number of travel stipends. Please send 250-word abstracts and a brief vitae by 8 February to the Conference Chairs.
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