University of Groningen, The Netherlands, June 10/11, 2010.
Interested scholars are invited to submit proposals (ca. 300 words) by February 15, 2010. We would like to specifically encourage young researchers to submit proposals.
World War II and more specifically the German occupation of the Netherlands affect Dutch culture to this day – no other expression of post-war history has been disavowed as clearly as Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the coming to terms with the past. Notwithstanding, or rather because of the passing away of the witnesses to the historical events, the obsessive memorial culture does anything but subside: the growing popularity of the family novel illustrates that private memories have wider social value. While nowadays some voices in Germany claim a status as a victim of the allied air raids and forced displacement, some Dutch have begun to re-evaluate the master narrative of the goede/foute Dutchman.
Studies of collective memory and cultural memory have been popular among historians, sociologists, and literary scholars ever since Pierre Nora conceptualized the lieux de mémoire. In 1995 Frank van Vree, for instance, has traced the shifts within Dutch society and its “texture of memory” – its perception of the occupation, World War II, the Holocaust, and the memorization of these historical events.
Of particular importance for academic engagement with cultures of memory are the works of James E. Young. Based on the “textures of memory” Young analyzed the specificity of national narratives within the design of monuments and memorials as early as 1994. Decades after the war, we are still surrounded by a variety of signs and clues of the past. To him, experiencing these signs and clues represent an experience of the past as well as the present. The patterns and their links – their hidden, underlying, unconscious nexuses – are Young’s topic.
In his more recent work Young has also examined literature, art, photography, installation and other memorial media. Young suggests that “[w]hat is remembered of the Holocaust depends on how it is remembered, and how events are remembered depends in turn on the texts now giving them form.” In doing so, Young emphasizes that representations of the Holocaust and the actual historical event itself cannot be interpreted independent of one another.
Images fade, become blurred or superimposed – in their compilation, however, they retain their effectiveness even today. After Images – this is the term James E. Young uses to describe what comes after or lies beyond the image. Just as survivors relate what they have experienced in the past, their children and grandchildren testify to their own ‘experience’ of the past; an experience that is based on photos, films, history books, novels, plays, and eyewitness accounts. According to Young, “[t]he After Life of the memory is represented in the After Images of history: just as the visual impressions, which are retained on the retina after the perceived has long vanished.”
Referring to Inge Stephan and Alexandra Tacke, who have introduced Young’s concept to the area of literary and cultural studies in Germany, we would like to extend the Dutch memorial discourse concerning the occupation to include the dimension of After Images. How and by which means do contemporary artists, filmmakers, and writers historicize the German occupation of the Netherlands? The point of interest is not so much art about the occupation, but rather art after the occupation. This includes a past that has passed through a number of medially transmitted, seen, heard, or learned variants before it reaches one’s own consciousness. In our workshop we will consider the power of the transmitted images, which survive palimpsest-like in the culture, as a starting point. Which aesthetic codes of the past are inscribed in the present? How is the past kept alive? While several strategies of exoneration and attempts to identify with the past can be seen in the German context, it has to be asked how the young Dutch position themselves. In the aftermath of an occupation the positions of perpetrator and victim are not as defined as in the German case. Which roles do modern artists identify? How? And by which means? How are stereotypes of the ‘Other’ transmitted and asserted? Are there any fundamental breaks? And which generational transitions become visible?
Through individual analyses we would like to untangle which ‘flashes’ have remained on the cultural retina 65 years after the liberation. Which constants are passed on? Which medial images, rituals, etc. are absorbed, transformed, rejected, or overwritten? To what extent are the After Images relevant to contemporary German-Dutch relations? To what extent do they have a political, social, or cultural meaning?
Since these questions ask for an interdisciplinary approach, we invite proposals from History and Cultural Studies as well as Literary-, Film-, and Media Studies. Proposals from other fields are also welcomed.
▪ The workshop will be held in English and Dutch.
▪ A publication of the conference proceedings is planned.
▪ Some financial assistance can be provided.
Britta C. Jung, M.A.
Laura Fahnenbruck, MA
University of Groningen
Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG)
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Britta C. Jung / Laura Fahnenbruck
University of Groningen
Faculty of Arts
Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26
9712EK Groningen, Netherlands Email: email@example.com
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