“A 30-year-old impoverished refugee population, tens of thousands of settlers, a 1,000-mile wall, a stalled peace process…”
So begins a recent survey of politics as usual, not in Israel or Palestine, but in what has been described as the “world’s most forgotten conflict” in the Western Sahara. Indeed, so “forgotten” is this most forgotten of crises that media sources only ever remember it as such. Variously calling it a ‘Forgotten Palestine,’ ‘a forgotten desert fight,‘ or ‘forgotten land grab’ affecting a ‘forgotten people,’ news accounts of the longstanding catastrophe affecting the Sahrawi nation in the Western Sahara give priority to our forgetfulness over much else.
The curious fate of the Western Sahara in mass media demands critical reflection on the political status of “forgotten conflicts”: from those that we remember to forget to those that we forget to remember. ‘Critical,’ in the sense that any analysis worthy of the name would have to address the political relation between the phenomenon of ‘forgotten conflicts’ and their interpretation as such. In other words, the forgotten conflicts we wish to examine are not solely the particular instances that live on at the extreme margins of an ‘attention economy,’ but rather, the ones that are advanced in the belief that concepts like an ‘attention economy,’ or ‘disaster fatigue,’ are sufficient to explain forgotten conflicts to begin with. The working premise of this workshop, then, is that as a contemporary political phenomenon the ‘forgotten conflict’ is not reducible to a catalogue of its occurrences. Consequently, the ‘Forgotten Conflicts’ project aspires to treat conflicts and their forgetting as reciprocally related historical phenomena.
Advanced as a joint initiative of Colgate University’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program [P-CON] and the University of Durham’s ‘Politics-State-Space’ Research Group, the “Forgotten Conflicts” meeting will bring together approximately 15 scholars from around the globe in order to address the epistemological, historical, ethical, and political implications of this phenomenon. Our aim is to develop and publish an important dialogue between scholars representing an array of disciplines, focusing in particular on the way that the very existence of ‘forgotten conflicts’ shapes contemporary understandings of the politics of violence. We therefore invite applications from key researchers in geography, international politics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, politics, history, and law, who are developing research into the role of a tradition of forgetting (as opposed to collective memory) in the understanding of the modern history of conflict.
Organization of the Workshop
The 2-day workshop will privilege thorough and substantive interaction, with the aim of facilitating engaged and critical responses to the topic. To this end, papers will be submitted in advance of the workshop and posted on a firewalled web site for participants to read before the event; at the workshop itself short presentations by each speaker will be followed by extended in-depth discussion of the issues addressed. To keep the event focused and intimate, the workshop will be limited to 15 participants, all of whom will submit papers.
Practical details regarding the venue, program, costs, timetable, accommodation and transport will be sent to all accepted participants. The charge for the event will be nominal. Because the budget for the event is limited, participants will be expected to cover their own transport and accommodation arrangements using information provided by the organizers. We anticipate that we will be able to provide a number of subventions for the travel and accommodation of graduate students.
Submission of Abstracts
Please email abstracts of 250 words to all three of the organizers by 10 November 2006.
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