By Comparitive and World Literature Graduate Student Meagan Smith
The smell of baking bread is an incredible, visceral memory trigger. It always takes me back to a particular time and place in my childhood, and then initiates an involuntary flood of other associations and memories. I’m at my best friend’s house; it must be sometime in the mid-nineties, when I was in middle school. It was around the time that those automatic bread-makers became popular and Patti, my best friend’s mom, had one. She’d make this slightly crusty white-bread and the smell would, of course, fill the kitchen and creep throughout the house. Our parents were close and Patti would have my whole family over for these wonderful dinners. My mom was just a shockingly terrible cook, so dinners at Patti’s house were always a treat for me and my siblings. The smell of baking bread always reminds me of Patti, who died about a year-and-a-half ago, just before her sixtieth birthday. It reminds me of being in middle-school; of the safety and comfort of my best friend’s house as opposed to the chaos and pins-and-needles feeling of my own house. For some reason, it also reminds me of the first time I ate fresh green beans. Maybe Patti served them with the bread at one of those wonderful dinners.
The range of these personal details, the intense emotions and the inconsequential memory of the green beans, were all invoked and laid bare for my own private act of contemplation the night of December 9th during Ethan Madarieta’s performance titled, SUBmersion Remember: a performance of memory. Submersion is a fitting description of the experience. Ethan was the sole performer and didn’t speak a word or even make eye contact with the audience, but we were each engrossed in the sensorial textures he managed to create and the stream of individual memories and emotions he managed to raise in a span of roughly forty-five minutes. The lights were off, a mild psychedelic droning music played in the background, a video installation with shots of soft cumulus clouds and footage of sandy high-desert from a variety of angles played on a screen behind an apparatus consisting of a clothesline suspended between two cinderblocks and pine two-by-fours, and, to complete the sensorial submersion, the scent of baking bread filled the room from a convection oven in the corner. Ethan’s role consisted mainly of mixing and kneading the ingredients for a second loaf of bread while intermittently pausing to hang objects covered in batter from the clothesline. This was bookended with several minutes of him sitting on the cinderblocks, bent forward with his elbows on his knees in a sort of self-contained, introspective pose.
The performance struck a balance between invoking this intensely personal, self-contained introspection—in which the actions, objects, and spaces presented to the audience remained unexplained—and the ambiguity of impersonal observation. In some sense the precise content and meaning of the more or less familiar images was less important than their common ability to invoke an individual response. This tension between the familiar and the strange, the intensely personal and the common or generalizable, hints at the theoretical apparatus of Ethan’s performance: the Bergsonian notion of “pure memory”. For Bergson, pure memory relies on the defamiliarization of the familiar. It can disrupt the automatic chain of involuntary perception and unconscious reaction. Perception, for Bergson, is as automatic as reflex and is full of memories that speed up the time it takes to involuntarily process external stimulus. The ease with which a stored memory is recalled and mapped onto a current moment overcomes the more complicated process of integrating perception and memory in response to a more or less familiar external object. In this process, the spontaneous potential of the individual body is lost, choice and even consciousness of one’s movement through the world become all but obsolete.
To reintegrate the body into the external world of things acting upon it, we must disrupt mindlessness of actions produced by automatic, unconscious perception. The surreal act of hanging batter-soaked objects on a clothesline with no explanation accomplishes this act of disruption. Each of the memory-objects—photographs, leaves, little trinkets—represents some significant moment in Ethan’s life, but that significance is lost to the audience who likely cannot identify the object let alone access the memories associated with it. While each object might be familiar in a general sense, they are emptied of their specific content, they lack the context needed for interpretation, and they become strange and unfamiliar when obscured by the batter and the layers of indecipherable meaning heaped on them through their association with someone else’s inaccessible memories.
The technique of making an object or event unfamiliar is intended to disorient rather than orient us to our perceived universe. It gives objects and even memories back their unique properties so that we can perceive them without all the baggage of always already “knowing” what they mean and how to respond to them. For an object or event to break the ceaseless automization of perception and reaction, though, the process of perception must be artificially prolonged. What Bergson calls “pure memory” is the process by which these automatic memory responses are disrupted, broken down, and then strung back together. This requires sustained intellectual engagement and full emersion in the sensorial experience of the disruptive event.
What Ethan’s performance enacts is the duration of pure memory; he emphasizes the process, the time and full awareness it demands. He provides the audience with layers of sensory stimuli full of surreal but familiar memory triggers: the stream of personal associations invoked by scent of the bread, the prolonged submersion in the disorienting space of someone else’s memories, the strangeness of the batter-soaked objects hanging from the clothesline, and especially the otherworldliness of the clouds and open desert occupied only by an impersonal naked body leaving impermanent marks in the sand. For me, this last image is associated particularly with the imaginative futures and “elsewhere” of science fiction—a realm of unfamiliarity and untapped potential. It strikes me that the juxtaposition of all the memories and emotions invoked by the multiple layers of Ethan’s performance is full of the same surreal otherworldliness and untapped potential. Placing my childhood memories of my best friend’s house next to the perplexing image of batter dripping from unidentified objects on a clothesline in front of a video montage of a naked man walking in reverse through some alien sandscape is disorienting, to say the least. Throw in the random memory of green beans and we’ve certainly entered the realm of the surreal. That’s the point, though. Pure memory requires full, sometimes uncomfortable submersion, but it provides us with fresh perceptions and enough strange material to build otherwise impossible connections and to imagine brave new futures.
Photos from the event taken by Professor Brett Kaplan
By HGMS Graduate Student Priscilla Charrat
On October 19th, 2016, the Program in Jewish Culture & Society and the Department of French and Italian received the visit of Maxime Decout, Maître de conferences at the University of Lille 3 in France, and author of three books on the following topics: Albert Cohen, Writing Judaism in French Literature, and Bad Faith in Literature. His visit focused on French author, and 2014 Nobel Prize recipient, Patrick Modiano. Decout is the editor of the special issue dedicated to Patrick Modiano of the journal Europe and published articles on Modiano, among other numerous publications on Albert Cohen, George Perec, Romain Gary, and Judaism in French literature.
A leading figure of contemporary French literature, Patrick Modiano’s reception of the Nobel Prize in 2014 came to the surprise of the American media and readership, despite the author’s literary fame in Europe. The relatively restrained circulation of Modiano’s work in North America before the reception of his Nobel compared to his European success might be due to the topographic nature of his works, which follow the paths of characters through Paris’s sinuous streets, evoking the social background of characters by mentioning the name of neighborhoods in passing, and inviting the reader to tap into his own knowledge of the places evoked. The serpentine nature of the Parisian landscape that echoes the meandering of memory evoked by Modiano’s novels might more intuitively translate culturally to European readers than to Americans more used to the grid system of American city planning.
Modiano’s success is due largely to the singularity of his approach. In the midst of instant communication and flash news, Modiano proposes novels which posit the void, and the enigma, as value. Maxime Decout started his visit with a workshop on Modiano’s best known, and most accessible, novel Dora Bruder. The novel follows a narrator, an apparent double of the author himself, a teenage Jewish runaway living in Paris during the Occupation. The novel’s artfulness lies in the way it engages the reader, proposing a narrative permeated with silence, restraint, and interrogation that leads the reader to piece together clues both about Dora herself, and about the lived experience of Jews in occupied France.
A specialist of Judaism and Jewish identity in French literature, Decout highlighted the absence of an identifiable Jewish literature category in France. While there are French Jewish authors, and while some of them might write about Jewish identity, Jewish History, or Jewish protagonists, Decout pointed out that unlike in American literature, there is no "French Jewish" canon. Modiano might write about the Jewish runaway Dora, but he can also be described as a writer of the occupation period, a writer of Paris and its suburbs, or a writer of silence. Yet, the Occupation period recurs obsessively in Modiano’s work with many of his novels echoing each other through recurring scenes, anecdotes, or motifs such as phone books listing names and addresses, photographic portraits, and suitcases (tacitly alluding to the Holocaust). Born in 1945 to a Sephardic Jewish father and a gentile Belgian mother, Modiano’s own Jewish identity remains a constant questioning on inheritance best apprehended through his body of works.
We thank Dr. Decout for his superb talk and workshop, and pledge to follow Modiano’s footsteps in our continuous engagement with memory and literature.
 -Albert Cohen : les fictions de la judéité, Paris, Classiques-Garnier, « Etudes de littérature des XXe et XXIe siècles », 2011, 371p.
– Écrire la judéité. Enquête sur un malaise dans la littérature française, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, « Détours », 2015.
– En toute mauvaise foi. Sur un paradoxe littéraire, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, « Paradoxe », 2015.
 The exhaustive list of Dr. Decout’s publications can be found at http://alithila.recherche.univ-lille3.fr/index.php/contacts/decout-maxime/
The fifth Mnemonics: Network for Memory Studies summer school will take place from June 2-4, 2016 on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and will be hosted by the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies (HGMS). The theme of the 2016 event will be “The Other Side of Memory: Forgetting, Denial, Repression." Our keynote speakers will be Berber Bevernage (Ghent), Jodi A. Byrd (Illinois), and Françoise Vergès (Paris). Submissions are open to all graduate students interested in memory studies.
Mnemonics is an international collaborative effort for graduate education in the interdisciplinary field of memory studies. Each year a different partner institution hosts a summer school for select students on a particular theme pertinent to the study of cultural memory. Panels of scholarly presentations by graduate students will be supplemented by professionalization workshops, cultural events, and opportunities for informal socializing. Three distinguished keynote lecturers will present new work and will engage with participants. Partners from the different campuses affiliated with Mnemonics will also be on site and will help in responding to and mentoring graduate students.
We have chosen the theme of forgetting as a way of highlighting an essential, but often overlooked component of the dynamics of remembrance. As the pioneering memory studies scholar Aleida Assmann has written, “Memory, including cultural memory, is always permeated and shot through with forgetting. In order to remember anything one has to forget; but what is forgotten need not necessarily be lost forever.” Both Assmann and the anthropologist Paul Connerton point out that forgetting is not a “unitary phenomenon”: it comes in multiple forms, including those associated with traumatic events, post-conflict amnesties, and repressive state apparatuses. Furthermore, as Assmann and Connerton emphasize, there is also a positive side to forgetting: discarding the past can make possible new beginnings and assist in the overcoming of violent pasts. The topic, “The Other Side of Memory: Forgetting, Denial, Repression,” will provide space for consideration of this variety of forms in individual and collective contexts as well as in theoretical reflection and concrete case studies. We anticipate papers on such topics as Holocaust and Armenian Genocide denial, migration and forgetting, nation building and selective remembrance, and trauma and repression, among other things.
In the months leading up to the conference, HGMS will host a reading group for students and faculty in Illinois on the theme of “forgetting” as a way of preparing the intellectual ground for the event. Information about the reading group will be posted on our Facebook page so that others will have the option of reading along.
Possible topics might include, but are not restricted to:
Confirmed Keynote Speakers
Berber Bevernage is Assistant Professor of historical theory at the Department of History at Ghent University (Belgium). His research focuses on the dissemination, attestation and contestation of historical discourse and historical culture in post-conflict situations. He is the author of History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence: Time and Justice (Routledge, 2011) and has published in journals such as History and Theory, Memory Studies, Social History and History Workshop Journal. Bevernage is (co-)founder of the interdisciplinary research forum 'TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt' which focuses on popular, academic and artistic dealings with the past in a large variety of different cultural and social areas. Together with colleagues he established the International Network for Theory of History, which aims to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas among theorists of history around the world.
Jodi A. Byrd is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and associate professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she is also a faculty affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. She is the author of Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minnesota, 2011) and her articles have appeared in American Indian Quarterly, Cultural Studies Review, Interventions, J19, College Literatures, Settler Colonial Studies, and American Quarterly. Her teaching and research focuses on issues of indigeneity, gender, and sexuality at the intersections of political studies, postcolonial studies, queer studies, and comparative ethnic studies. Her current manuscript in process, entitled Indigenomicon: American Indians, Videogames, and Structures of Genre, interrogates how the structures of digital code intersect with issues of sovereignty, militarism, and colonialism.
Françoise Vergès currently holds the Chair “Global South(s)” at the Collège d’études mondiales, Paris. She also works for the Memorial of the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes. After growing up in Reunion Island, she lived in Algeria, France, Mexico, the United States, and England. In the 1970s-1980s, she was a journalist in a feminist weekly, an editor in a feminist publishing house, and worked in anti-racist and anti-imperialist movements. She moved to the USA in 1983 and got her BA summa cum laude in Women’s Studies and Political Science at UCSD and her Ph.D. in Political Theory at the University of California, Berkeley (1995). Vergès has directed the scientific and cultural program for a museum in Reunion Island (2002-2010) and has been the president of the French Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery (2009-2012). She has written extensively on colonial slavery and colonialism, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, museums in the South, processes of creolization in the Indian Ocean, new politics of colonization and decolonization. She is the author of Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Métissage (Duke UP, 1999) and many books in French. She also works with filmmakers and artists and is the author of documentaries.
The Mnemonics summer school serves as an interactive forum in which junior and senior memory scholars meet in an informal and convivial setting to discuss each other’s work and to reflect on new developments in the field of memory studies. The objective is to help graduate students refine their research questions, strengthen the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of their projects, and gain further insight into current trends in memory scholarship.
Each of the three days of the summer school will start with a keynote lecture, followed by sessions consisting of three graduate student papers, responses, and extensive Q&A. Participants are expected to be in attendance for the full three days of the summer school. In order to foster incisive and targeted feedback, all accepted papers will be pre-circulated among the participants and each presentation session will be chaired by a senior scholar who will also act as respondent.
Local Organizers: The Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies (HGMS) is located in the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An interdisciplinary unit dedicated to comparative research on trauma, genocide, and cultural memory, HGMS sponsors conferences and workshops and offers a Certificate in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Co-Organizers: Michael Rothberg (Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies/English) & Brett Kaplan (Jewish Culture and Society/Comparative and World Literature). Graduate Student Organizing Committee: Jennifer Baldwin (Anthropology/MD/PhD), Priscilla Charrat (French), Jenelle Davis (Art History), Estibalitz Ezkerra (Comparative Literature), Lauren Hansen (German), Sophia Levine (Dance), and Jessica Young (English).
Where: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located two and a half hours south of Chicago by car. It has its own small airport (CMI) and flights from Chicago on American Airlines take only 30 minutes. Urbana-Champaign is also accessible by bus or train from Chicago.
When: June 2-4, 2016
Costs: $200. The fee includes conference registration, a private bedroom and shared suite at the Illini Tower for four nights (June 1-June 4), and most meals. For those who do not require overnight accommodation, the fee is $50. Travel to Champaign-Urbana is not covered; prospective attendees are encouraged to check travel costs in advance. (UIUC students may attend for free.)
Submission: Submissions are open to all graduate students interested in memory studies.
Send: A 300-word abstract for a 15-minute paper (including title, presenter’s name, and institutional affiliation), a description of your graduate research project (one paragraph), and a short CV (max. one page) as a single Word or PDF document to: email@example.com
Deadline: February 1, 2016
Notification of Acceptance: February 22, 2016
Deadline for submission of paper drafts: May 16, 2016
Questions? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mnemonics homepage: http://www.mnemonics.ugent.be/
Mnemonics on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/mnemonics.network/
Mnemonics on Twitter: @mnemonics_net
The Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies homepage: http://www.jewishculture.illinois.edu/programs/holocaust/
The Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/507030256062140/
This Days and Memory forum brings together four scholars of cultural memory, based on three continents, who have been actively involved in promoting the transnational turn in memory studies: Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University), Ann Rigney (Utrecht University), Michael Rothberg (University of Illinois), and Debarati Sanyal (University of California, Berkeley). Three of the presenters (Kennedy, Rigney, and Rothberg) are part of an internationally funded research project called the Network in Transnational Memory Studies (NITMES), which was initiated by Ann Rigney with support from the NWO (The Dutch Research Council). Through a series of conferences, faculty exchanges, and publications—including this one—NITMES seeks to provide a platform for new debates in cultural memory studies.
In the past 25 years, memory studies has emerged as a new interdisciplinary field of cultural inquiry. It aims for insight into practices of public remembrance and the sociocultural dynamics through which mediations of the past shape collective identities and inform social action. The development of this field was linked from the outset to investigations of national memory cultures and institutions, with the nation‐state taken as the most self‐evident framework for analysis. Pierre Nora’s pioneering, influential, and contested study Les Lieux de Memoire (1984‐1992) encapsulated the link between “territorialization” (focusing on how memory narratives are fixed, located, contained, “inherited”) and the nation (as the self‐evident frame within which narratives operate and identities are shaped). With the turn towards transnational approaches in the last decade, however, Nora's concept of “sites of memory” has come under pressure as the assumed framework for memory studies. In our increasingly globalized, networked, and mediated world, alternatives to national models of memory as a resource for identity constructions are beginning to emerge without yet being fully understood.
This forum explores the consequences of the transnational turn for the study of sites, practices, and noeuds or knots of memory. The short papers collected here—originally presented at the Modern Language Association Convention in Vancouver in January 2015 on a roundtable organized by Rosanne Kennedy and Michael Rothberg—track the intersection of memory and politics across a range of sites: from Ireland to Indonesia, from Germany to Kurdistan, and beyond. At stake in these discussions are such multivalenced categories as complicity, human rights, and internationalism, which play out in relation to what Astrid Erll has called "traveling memories." Paying close attention to a range of media—from photographs and films to literary texts and monuments—contributors interrogate the mobilizing potential of public remembrance, its catalyzing force in activist projects both within and beyond nation-states.
You can find the papers here:
1. Debarati Sanyal, “Memory in Complicity”
2. Rosanne Kennedy, “The Act of Killing, the Global Memory Imperative, and Trans/national Accountability”
3. Michael Rothberg, “Remembering Ronahî, Remembering Internationalism”
4. Ann Rigney, “Transnational Bloody Sundays: Multi-Sited Memory”
We invite you to join the discussion!
This post is part one of a four-part forum: "Transnational Memories: Sites, Knots, Methods." An earlier version was presented as part of a roundtable at the Modern Language Association's 2015 Convention in Vancouver that featured Rosanne Kennedy, Ann Rigney, Michael Rothberg, and Debarati Sanyal.
The imperative to remember foundational violence such as the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid, partition, or colonialism has often led the study of memory to compartmentalize these events as singular ethno-cultural or national traumas. Yet in the past two decades, we've seen a shift from memory contained to memory unbound. Spatial models of remembrance such as Pierre Nora's lieux de memoire, or “sites of memory,” and the containment that they can presume, have been yielding to figures of process and motion. Richard Crownshaw describes this as a shift from centripetal models of memory, where group or national identity coalesces around collective memories of events, to a centrifugal movement that releases cultural memory from ethnic, territorial, and national particularisms into transnational flows and cosmopolitan contents. Today, memory is on the move, and national histories are being rethought through models of motion, entanglement, crossings and linkage in order to capture the fluid practices of remembrance in a postcolonial age of globalization, mass migration, and technological connection. These include the compelling models developed by my co-panelists: Rosanne Kenney's moving testimony, Ann Rigney's transnational memory, and Michael Rothberg's multidirectional memory. In the few minutes that I have today, I'd like to sketch out how complicity can be a useful term as we consider memory's movement across national and ethno-cultural borders.
In a time of unprecedented connection with other peoples and histories, complicity and solidarity may be two sides of the same coin. Today, the recognition of marginalized histories of violence and loss remains an urgent task. But this is not to say that an additive model of recognition and remembrance is enough, or that memory's movement is inherently progressive or inclusive. If this movement can shake up traditions of remembrance, allowing new identities and affiliations to emerge, its pathways can also lead to dangerous intersections, where identification leads to appropriation, where political uses of memory collide with the ethical obligations of testimony, where difference is eclipsed into sameness, or where particular pasts are absorbed under one paradigm of historical trauma. We see a particularly dangerous intersection in the transnational movement of memory in France right now, where the shootings at Charlie Hebdo and an Hyper Cacher are referred to as "the French 9/11" and analogized to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht... All this to say that even as we look at memory's movement across nations, histories and identities, we must also look out for the range of causes that this movement serves, the solidarities that are opened but also those that are foreclosed. If, as Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider have observed, "the container of the nation state is in the process of slowly being cracked," memory still moves within the political constraints of an often national or identitarian field whose channels are limited by competing political interests and ideological investments. 
Complicity, I want to suggest, helps us track the complexity of memory's movement across national borders and ethno-cultural difference. Now, complicity usually means participation in wrongdoing, or collaboration with evil. But its Latin root, complicare, 'to fold together' reminds us of its secondary and now archaic usage, which is 'the state of being complex or involved'. In French, the word complicité also means understanding and intimacy. Complicity as a term can help us think about the folding together or gathering of subject positions, histories and memories, that characterizes the emerging methods of transnational, transcultural memory studies. The recognition of complicity—of the folds that bring different histories into contact, but also of the places we occupy in a historical fold— requires us to consider our contradictory position within the political fabric of a given moment, as victims, perpetrators, accomplices, witnesses, bystanders, consumers or spectators, and more often than not, an uneasy combination of the above (as Rosanne Kennedy suggests on this panel, in the context of the "Say Sorry for '65" campaign).
Since the 1990's, memory studies in conjunction with trauma theory has tended to address historical violence, from the Holocaust to 9/11, primarily through the perspective of the victim. Yet more recently we've witnessed a turn towards complicity and perpetration, a turn that might well be a return, since in the aftermath of World War Two, at least in the French-speaking context, complicity was a key vector of transnational memory (e.g. the folding together of Nazi atrocity and French colonial violence). On the contemporary international cultural scene, examples of this renewed turn to testimony's "darker side" include Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, Rithy Panh's documentary on the Khmer Rouge, S21, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, or Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes, to which I'll return. This potential reorientation of cultural imaginaries towards complicity and perpetration rather than trauma and victimhood is valuable provided it doesn't congeal into facile pronouncements on– and handwringing about– our structural complicity with global violence. An animating, rather than paralyzing, awareness of complicity can alert us to what legal scholar Christopher Kutz calls "our mediated relationship to harms." It can lead to a better understanding of the past's reverberations in the present, a clearer grasp of the many forces that mediate our agency. Complicity, as I understand it, is not a fixed stance but a structure of commitment that provides an alternative to affect-based discourses of trauma, melancholy or shame, and opens up a robust, yet self-reflexive, engagement with the violence of history.
I only have time for one literary example here: Franco-American author Jonathan Littell's monumental Les Bienveillantes, translated as The Kindly Ones. Published in 2006, this bestseller unleashed polemics in France and beyond due to its transgression of several taboos on Holocaust representation. I will simply evoke its transgressive treatment of identification. Holocaust testimony is usually understood to be the account of a survivor and victim; its reception is theorized through models of intimacy and identification. Readers or viewers are invited to become secondary witnesses and hosts to the representation of a victim’s trauma. The Kindly Ones, however, is a first-person narrative that coerces us into complicity with its Nazi protagonist for over 900 pages, even if this identification with the perpetrator is constantly sabotaged by the text's irony. Thus, we are asked to sustain the tension between intimacy and irony, identification and distance, as we witness the atrocities of the Third Reich in their visceral horror and bureaucratic abstraction. To readers who inhabit a potentially reified culture of Holocaust memory, this alternation between complicity and irony forces us to reimagine Nazism in relation to ourselves, without abdicating to facile claims about the banality of evil or that "we are all perpetrators."
The Kindly Ones is also a historical investigation of transnational atrocity. It explores the colonial archive of Nazism's Eastward expansion, reminding us that for Hitler the Russian space was analogous to British India. In doing so, it highlights the conceptual and strategic complicities between the Final Solution, other Nazi programs of extermination, and the massacres and genocides of Western imperialism including American settler genocide, the US in Vietnam and France in Algeria. The novel aims to create a sounding board ("une caisse de résonance," as Littell puts it) between these distinctive legacies of racialized violence while gesturing towards the contemporary horizon. Its author is also a journalist who has written about current sites of conflict such as Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The interplay of complicity and irony in The Kindly Ones, its cognitive, affective, and ultimately ethical demands on readers, reminds us that if fiction can experiment with historical archives and practices of remembrance, the responsibility to animate these virtual memories lies in their reception. Reading is where an ethics of memory in motion can develop.
To conclude, last year at an MLA presidential panel on vulnerability, Andreas Huyssen asked us to think about the relationship between memory discourses and human rights in order to energize present and future-oriented struggles. It seems to me that complicity has a role to play in this as well. An attunement to one's complicity with both catastrophic and slow forms of violence that one might seek to prevent, challenge or repair would nuance the universalism of humanitarian discourses and help to identify the constraints under which certain subjects are produced as objects of intervention, compassion and assistance. Here too complicity and solidarity may be two sides of the same coin.
 Richard Crownshaw, Introduction to the special issue on transcultural memory, Parallax 17, no. 4 (2011):1.
 Rosanne Kennedy, "Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere," in Chiara de Cesari and Ann Rigney (ed.), Transnational Memory Circulation, Articulation, and Scales (Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, October 2014); Ann Rigney, Introduction to Transnational Memory Circulation, Articulation, and Scales (Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014); Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2009).
 For an expanded version of this argument, see Debarati Sanyal, Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).
 Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006), 195
 Christopher Kutz, Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 2.
 Jonathan Littell and Pierre Nora, “Conversation sur l’histoire et le roman,” in Le débat 144 (March/April 2007): 43–44.
Other Posts in this Forum
This post is part two of a four-part forum: "Transnational Memories: Sites, Knots, Methods." An earlier version was presented as part of a roundtable at the Modern Language Association's 2015 Convention in Vancouver that featured Rosanne Kennedy, Ann Rigney, Michael Rothberg, and Debarati Sanyal.
In 2012, Joshua Oppenheimer’s celebrated film, The Act of Killing, was released to significant acclaim, garnering awards at film festivals around the world. The film remembers the massacre of 500,000 alleged communists in Indonesia in 1965-66. In interviews, Oppenheimer states that he hoped to open a national conversation in Indonesia on the killings, abetted and protected by the military under the leadership of General Suharto. During Suharto’s reign (1966-1998), the killings were not so much ‘forgotten’ but deliberately misremembered: a four and a half hour propaganda film -- mandatory viewing for all school students -- narrated the slaughter as a patriotic act of ridding the nation of the ‘evil’ of communism. The Act of Killing aims to bring into visibility the culture of impunity that still persists in Indonesia, and enables perpetrators, who have never faced justice, to live as ‘free men’. Over a five-year period, Oppenheimer and his anonymous Indonesian co-director filmed one of the executioners, Anwar Congo, and his circle of friends as they discussed and re-enacted their acts of killing through a range of Hollywood genres. In focusing the camera exclusively on Indonesian perpetrators and locations, The Act of Killing represents the genocide through a national frame. My focus here is not on the film, fascinating though it is, but rather on its human rights packaging. The film has been embedded in campaigns for justice on behalf of the victims, tying publicity for the film with advocacy for human rights. Leaving aside the moot question of the efficacy of such campaigns, their websites provide insight into how the film is packaged for travel, to promote the film and address transnational audiences.
Of particular relevance for transnational memory studies, these human rights campaigns productively illustrate the workings of the global memory imperative. As elaborated by Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, the ‘global memory imperative’ refers to the idea that “memories of the Holocaust …have the potential to become the cultural foundation for global human rights politics.” In interviews, Oppenheimer repeatedly invokes Holocaust memory to justify making the film and thereby ‘breaking the silence’ surrounding the mass violence in Indonesia. For instance, he contends that Medan, the town in which Anwar lives, is like Nazi Germany “forty years after the Holocaust” with “the Nazis still in power…” He acknowledges Claude Lanzmann’s Holocaust film, Shoah, and particularly his testimonial methods, as a major influence on his approach to filming The Act of Killing. Of particular significance for my analysis, Levy and Sznaider argue that the global memory imperative is “transforming nation-state sovereignty by subjecting it to international scrutiny,” and by empowering the human rights regime to intervene into current sites of violation. On this conception, the moral imperative to remember the victims of mass violence, activated through the film-human rights campaign assemblage, functions as a spur to global civil society to pressure a nation-state that refuses to acknowledge accountability for violating the rights of victims. How then do these advocacy campaigns use the film’s act of memory to solicit and address their intended publics? How do concepts of the national and transnational play out in these campaigns?
‘Say Sorry for ’65’: Art, Advocacy and Transnational Accountability
The official website for The Act of Killing includes a ‘Take Action’ hyperlink to a bright yellow page titled ‘Say Sorry for ‘65’. The ‘Minta Maaf: Say Sorry for ‘65’ campaign was launched in London on June 28, 2013 by the British human rights organization, TAPOL, which campaigns for human rights in Indonesia, especially in East Timor, West Papua and Aech. (TAPOL means ‘political prisoner’; the organization was formed in 1973 by Carmen Budjiardjo, who was a political prisoner in Indonesia following the massacres.) The campaign is supported by another human rights organization, East Timor Action Network (ETAN), which describes itself as ‘a U.S.-based grassroots organization working in solidarity with the peoples of Timor-Leste (East Timor), West Papua and Indonesia’. The publicity for the ‘Say Sorry’ campaign on The Act of Killing website asks visitors, if they can do one thing, to “write to your local representative and let them know your feelings about the genocide in Indonesia and ask that we put pressure on the government there to acknowledge their past so they can try to fix the wounds left from the killings.” Through this humanitarian appeal, the ‘Say Sorry for ’65’ campaign aims to generate support from global civil society to pressure a national government – Indonesia - for its failure to prosecute the perpetrators and thereby secure justice for the victims. With its familiar rhetoric of ‘feelings’ and ‘wounds’, this campaign positions non-Indonesian signatories as humanitarian subjects, who can express empathy and transnational solidarity with activists working for justice in Indonesia by signing an online petition.
The ‘Say Sorry for ‘65’ campaign is an example of deterritorialized advocacy: the ‘you’ that is addressed could be in any geo-political location, as could the ‘local representative’. By contrast, the target is territorialized: the invitation to ‘put pressure on the government there to acknowledge their past’ locates the violence and the responsibility in Indonesia. The ‘Say Sorry’ publicity on the film website asks viewers: “if you can do two things, please ... sign the Say Sorry for 65 Petition: The Indonesian president [at the time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] is very conscious of his international image, and support from outside of Indonesia is really important to persuade him that he has to act now.” In this instance, we see the global memory imperative at work: film viewers are addressed as members of a transnational ‘witnessing public’ who can do something to right the wrongs in Indonesia. The ‘Say Sorry’ campaign grounds transnational solidarity in humanitarian values of compassion, justice, witnessing and empathy, but it does not require viewers to consider their own positioning or implication.
Although ETAN, a US-based grassroots human rights organization, supports the ‘Say Sorry for ‘65’ campaign, it has launched a linked campaign to demand that the United States government acknowledge its role in the mass killings in Indonesia in 1965. It invites visitors to watch The Act of Killing on PBS, the American Public Broadcasting Station, and to “take action on US support for mass violence in Indonesia.” It includes fact-sheets detailing the role of the United States in the killings, and a link to Brad Simpson’s article, ‘It’s Our Act of Killing Too,’ published in The Nation. By including these ‘factsheets’ and links, the ETAN campaign acts as a prosthetic to the film, extending its act of memory beyond the nation. It thereby addresses one of the criticisms of The Act of Killing – that is fails to reveal the extensive involvement of the United States and other
Western nations in the massacres.
The rhetorical address of the ETAN campaign for US accountability differs markedly from the ‘Say Sorry for 65’ campaign. The ‘Say Sorry’ campaign directs international scrutiny in one direction only – ‘over there’ – and solicits global civil society to pressure the Indonesian government to apologize. While supporting the ‘Say Sorry’ campaign’s call for justice for victims in Indonesia, ETAN’s campaign for US accountability directs attention to the American home front and thereby reterritorializes accountability for the genocide. It addresses Americans as participants in a national public sphere, and – to borrow a term from Michael Rothberg -- as ‘implicated subjects’ in this past. The campaign solicits Americans to pressure their own government to acknowledge its complicity in the massacre by, for instance, signing a petition asking the United States government to “declassify and release all documents related to the U.S. role in the 1965/66 mass violence, including the CIA's so-called "job files." As these two campaigns illustrate, human rights discourse and organizations provide a transit lane that facilitates the global travels of The Act of Killing. But these border-crossing campaigns have different effects: the ‘Say Sorry’ campaign, while soliciting a transnational humanitarian public to pressure Indonesia, nonetheless reinforces nationalism by locating responsibility for the mass killings within Indonesia alone. By contrast, the ‘Acknowledge US Support’ campaign uses the film’s memory of genocide to demand accountability from the US, thereby transnationalizing accountability.
World Memory and the Transnational Public Sphere
What issues does this case raise for transnational memory studies? To the extent that The Act of Killing aims not simply to remember the killings, but to facilitate a dialogue, in the present, about the genocide and justice for survivors and victims’ families, it brings into play the issue of the public sphere, for it is in the public sphere that advocacy does its work. As Nancy Fraser (2007) has argued, the concept of the public sphere has implicitly assumed a Westphalian frame, in which the public sphere was “a bounded political community with its own territorial state”, which authorized citizens to hold their national governments accountable. In memory studies today it is widely acknowledged that ‘sites of memory’ are no longer contained by the nation-state, and that memory texts and practices circulate across national borders. The transnational travels of memory render the issue of the public sphere – and of how memory texts are addressed to transnational publics (who are also simultaneously ‘national’) -- a compelling one for memory scholars. As we have seen in relation to the human rights campaigns that aid the transnational circulation of The Act of Killing, global civil society – rather than a national public sphere - is called upon to police nation-states of which its members are not citizens. This is, of course, a significant development facilitated by the growth of a powerful global human rights regime. But as the ETAN case shows, citizens can also exercise transnational solidarity – and perhaps with more integrity and self-reflexivity – with victims and survivors elsewhere by acting as members of a national public sphere, to hold our own governments to accountability for their actions, and simultaneously recognize our own implication in these events.
 The film is directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and an anonymous Indonesian co-director; see http://www.actofkilling.com. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 Scenes from this film are featured in the Director’s Cut of The Act of Killing.
 Levy, Daniel and Natan Sznaider, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age. Trans. Assenka Oksiloff. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2006: 4.
 Levy, Daniel, and Natan Sznaider. Human Rights and Memory. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2010: 149.
 See the ‘Take Action’ link on the film’s website: http://www.actofkilling.com/#action. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 http://www.etan.org/action/saysorry.htm. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 See the ‘Say Sorry for 65’ campaign publicity on The Act of Killing website: http://www.actofkilling.com/#action. This page has a hyperlink to an online petition, hosted by ‘change.org’ (https://www.change.org/p/president-sby-say-sorry-for-65). Accessed 4 March 2015
 http://www.actofkilling.com/#action. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 On the concept of a ‘witnessing public’ see Meg McLagan, “Principles, Publicity, and Politics: Notes on Human Rights Media.” American Anthropologist 105.3 (2003): 609–612.
 http://www.etan.org/news/2014/09breaking_the_silence.htm. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 Originally published in The Nation, Feb. 28, 2014; see: http://www.thenation.com/article/178592/its-our-act-killing-too. Accessed 4 March 2015.
 Rothberg, Michael. “Beyond Tancred and Clorinda: Trauma Theory for Implicated Subjects.” The Future of Trauma Theory. Eds. Gert Buelens, Sam Durrant, and Robert Eaglestone.London: Routledge, 2013. xi–xviii.
 Fraser, Nancy. “Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World.” Theory, Culture and Society 24.4 (2007): 7–30.
 For further discussion of global memory and the transnational public sphere, see Rosanne Kennedy, "Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere," in Chiara De Cesari and Ann Rigney (ed.), Transnational Memory Circulation, Articulation, Scales, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, 2014: 51-78.
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This post is part three of a four-part forum: "Transnational Memories: Sites, Knots, Methods." An earlier version was presented as part of a roundtable at the Modern Language Association's 2015 Convention in Vancouver that featured Rosanne Kennedy, Ann Rigney, Michael Rothberg, and Debarati Sanyal.
In October 1998, a battle took place near Van in eastern Anatolia between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (the PKK). In many ways this was an “ordinary” battle in an area some consider North Kurdistan. Over the course of the 1990s, the Turkish state waged a brutal war of counter-insurgency against Kurdish militants that killed tens of thousands of fighters and civilians, destroyed thousands of villages, and displaced as many as a million people, all while denying the substantial minority of Kurds in Turkey basic human rights to language, culture, and political representation. The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the US, and Turkey, has fought for decades in the name of Kurdish independence and autonomy. A certain liberalization and de-escalation of the crisis within Turkey occurred in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and the reputation and political program of the PKK have been undergoing significant change. Yet, the Kurdish question remains an unresolved flashpoint in Turkey and the region, as recent fighting near the Turkish border in Syria and Iraq and the highly visible resistance in Kobanê make clear.
The battle in October 1998 ended as many did, with the army capturing and, it seems, summarily executing a number of the Kurdish fighters. Among those executed fighters was one who would become an icon of the Kurdish cause: Sehît Ronahî—Martyr Ronahî—from the YAJK, the women’s brigade of the PKK. While the iconography of Kurdish martyrs is extensive—and includes many women who have fought with this secular, revolutionary movement—Sehît Ronahî represents an unusual case. Ronahî was born in Munich in 1965 and was known by her birth name, Andrea Wolf, before she joined the PKK in the mid-1990s. Previous to enlisting in the women’s brigade, Wolf had been involved in radical left politics in Germany, had served time in jail, and may have been affiliated with the Red Army Faction. Her experience in the radical left—and possibly the threat of returning to prison—eventually moved her to align herself with the Kurdish cause.
In this short paper, I want to use the unexpected, but not unique, case of Wolf/Ronahî to reflect on some of the issues central to our roundtable. As a non-national who died in the national liberation struggle of a people long denied a nation-state, Wolf provides an occasion to reflect on memory and politics within and across borders. Her case challenges us to examine the status of lieux de mémoire beyond the context of the nation-state; the relevance of migration, media, and diaspora to memory studies; and the political and methodological implications of the transnational turn.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that, in the years since her murder, Wolf has been transformed into a transnational lieu de mémoire that condenses an array of not-entirely-compatible currents. In addition to being a martyr for Kurdish national liberation, Wolf has become both a symbol of socialist internationalism and an object of human rights campaigns by Turkish, German, and European organizations. Various groups claiming allegiance to Wolf’s legacy have commemorated her death in multiple sites by constructing what Astrid Erll would call a “plurimedial” constellation of memory. In 1999, at the PKK’s yearly convention, the party voted unanimously to make Wolf a symbol of internationalist struggle, and her memory remains central to the Kurdish cause. In 2013, two years after a Turkish human rights organization discovered a mass grave holding Wolf’s remains along with those of forty other militants, a massive tomb in the region near Van where she died was named in her memory. Speaking at the tomb’s dedication ceremony in Çatak, a Kurdish guerilla evoked Wolf as “a manifestation of the diversity and internationality of the Kurdish movement.”
At the same time that Wolf circulates in the transnational Kurdish region, her memory has also remained present in Germany. There her story and image have been memorialized and remediated in books, posters, exhibitions, ceremonies, street demonstrations, and videos—most of them produced or organized by coalitions of radical German leftists and Kurdish activists in Europe. But her memory remains alive even in the mainstream press; a recent report in the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel evoked Wolf while discussing the suddenly fashionable topic of Kurdish women fighters in Kobanê.
Finally, at an angle to both radical and mainstream currents in Germany, the internationally known artist Hito Steyerl—who was Wolf’s friend as a teenager in Munich—has produced an ongoing series of videos, essays, and performances that reflect on Wolf’s engagement with the PKK and mourn her death at the hands of the Turkish army. Videos such as November (2004) and Abstract (2012) constitute a requiem for internationalism, an interrogation of what she calls “traveling images” of revolutionary martyrdom, and an indictment of contributions by the German state and multinational corporations to the Turkish war against the Kurds. Steyerl begins her aesthetic engagement with Wolf’s memory by asking how a German “friend” can become a Kurdish “terrorist.” But Steyerl’s attempt to answer this question takes a self-reflexive turn as she realizes that she has herself in some fashion become, through her work, a “Kurdish protestor” and that the art world in which she moves is itself implicated in the transnational economies that produce the military technologies that killed Wolf.
What can we make of this heterogeneous mnemonic activity, which I have only superficially evoked, and how does it help us think anew about transnational memory? Many of us have criticized Pierre Nora’s lieux de mémoire project for the way it remains within a nation-state framework and purifies the nation of colonial, postcolonial, and minority memories. Yet, Nora’s paradigm does help illuminate this case study. As Ann Rigney has often pointed out, lieux de mémoire make available an impressively flexible methodology because they highlight centripetal, condensed meanings along with the possibility of centrifugal ongoing metamorphosis. Following Rigney, we might say that this combination of condensation and displacement also has the potential to speak to the transnational work of memory. In this case, the mnemonic figure of Wolf-as-Ronahî condenses Kurdish nationalist aspirations, radical internationalist ideologies, and mainstream Euro-American fears about Third World terrorism. At the same time, those meanings demonstrate the possibility for mnemonic metamorphosis, as the recent reactivation of Wolf’s memory in the context of Kobanê exemplifies.
But the Wolf case also reveals the limits of Nora’s project. If, as he puts it in “Between Memory and History,” the “differentiated network” of memory sites ultimately operates at the level of “national history,” then the conditions of possibility for Wolf to become a lieu de mémoire lie, as I have tried to indicate schematically, in the interaction of activities at a series of scales: between national aspirations, state repression, diasporic political organizing, histories of internationalist solidarity, and transnational media—a mixture that pushes the limits of the metaphor of the “site,” no matter how flexibly we conceive it. Steyerl’s notion of “traveling images”—which anticipates Erll’s notion of “traveling memory”—may be more evocative.
Wolf’s story also complicates the linear narrative of continuously eroding “real” milieux de mémoire central to Nora’s project. Despite—or perhaps because of—the fully globalized context that made Ronahî possible and that has nourished her rise to iconic status, “real” communities continue to cluster around her memory sixteen years after her death: both in the Kurdish struggle and in extreme left milieus in Germany.
But this case study also poses challenges to the emergent transnational memory studies that has arisen in response to Nora and what Erll calls the “second phase” of memory studies. Most important, from my perspective, it requires that we think more imaginatively about the status and scale of the political in memory studies. Nora’s focus on the nation retains plausibility because the nation-state continues to function as a memory-wielding agent of legitimation, discipline, and identity formation. Thus far, the primary referent for memory politics beyond the nation has been human rights, as Rosanne Kennedy discusses with great nuance in her contribution to this forum. As I’ve suggested, the discourse and practice of human rights do play a catalytic role in the Wolf case. Yet, the human rights framework is insufficient to describe both the salience of Ronahî’s memory and the political aspirations it evokes. An alternate term also emerges from this material: I want to propose that internationalism retains power both as a memory and an aspiration. The concept of “internationalism” may seem passé, and it is certainly not innocent, but it best describes the tradition of long-distance solidarity for which the traveling memory of Wolf stands. Remembering Ronahî leads us across national boundaries; but it also leads us to confront the borders that still exist and that are themselves forms of violence and injustice—in Kurdistan and elsewhere. We need new internationalisms because we still live in a world of nations.
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This post is part four of a four-part forum: "Transnational Memories: Sites, Knots, Methods." An earlier version was presented as part of a roundtable at the Modern Language Association's 2015 Convention in Vancouver that featured Rosanne Kennedy, Ann Rigney, Michael Rothberg, and Debarati Sanyal.
On Sunday 30 January 1972, a paratroop regiment of the British army killed 13 participants in a civil rights demonstration in the Northern Irish city of Derry; a 14th victim died later. This event has come to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ It has been remediated time and again since 1972: in literature, theatre, cinema, the visual arts, music. It has been the subject of memorials, and of two major judicial inquiries, one of which (the Widgery report of 1972) exonerated the army of all blame, while the other (the Saville report of 2010) acknowledged almost four decades later that their actions were “unjustified and unjustifiable,” an admission of culpability that lead to an official apology on the part of the British Prime Minister in that same year. The desire to see justice served with regard to this atrocity has been an important motor behind the intensity with which it has been remembered.
As a result of all this attention, the significance of Bloody Sunday has extended beyond the particular city in which the atrocity occurred to become a shorthand for the long-term struggle of the catholic minority for civil rights in Northern Ireland as a whole. Bloody Sunday has thus become a classical ‘site of memory’ in Pierre Nora’s sense, a site-specific and locally-experienced event that stands for itself and, by a process of condensation and displacement, for much more besides. What exactly it stands for is open to debate, and this polyvalence is arguably part of its resilience as a site (see further Rigney 2015).
What concerns me here today, however, is less how Bloody Sunday was remembered in Northern Ireland than its position within a larger, transnational field. The chances are that many of you reading this will also ‘recall’ Bloody Sunday, if only thanks to Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday (2002) or U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983). For if Bloody Sunday is a site-specific, locally-inflected memory site bound up with the city of Derry, it is also an example of what Astrid Erll (2011) has called a ‘travelling memory’ that operates across different national borders with the help of its mediations. Bloody Sunday did not just become a transnational memory after the fact, however: it has always already been transnational.
Bloody Sunday belonged, and was perceived from the outset as belonging, in what might be called a ‘canon’ of atrocities – many of which are called Bloody Sunday too - in which a peaceful demonstration by citizens is violently suppressed by state forces. These events are specifically related to the modern conditions of urban living as well as to the political condition of democracy, or would-be democracy, in which the will of the nation aspires to be represented in the workings of the state.
The first Bloody Sunday to be named as such took place in Trafalgar Square in 1887. This involved the brutal breaking up of a march for civil liberties in which a coalition of socialists, workers organisations and Irish nationalists took part. Exactly a year later, this first Bloody Sunday was commemorated in a new mass gathering in London, which was also connected through a gesture of internationalist solidarity to the first anniversary of the deaths of the so-called Chicago Martyrs. It would appear that the mass shootings of demonstrators in St. Petersburg in 1905 was subsequently called ‘Bloody Sunday’ by analogy with the one in Trafalgar Square.
There’s no time to go into details about these other ‘Bloody Sundays’, including the ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Dublin in 1920 and at Selma in 1965. Most important here is the fact that multidirectional comparisons between these various outbursts of state violence were very common on the part both of participants and observers. As the Dublin-based Irish Times wrote in reaction to the atrocity in Derry, for example: “Sharpeville, Amritsar, Bloody Sunday 1920 – the parallels are inadequate” (31 January 1972).
So from the get-go the 1972 Bloody Sunday resonated with outrages that had taken place elsewhere. I use the word resonance here deliberately as a way of designating particular linkages between events that are not based on chronological connections, but on systemic similarities that work across space and time. ‘Bloody Sunday’ is an event-type that, like a mnemonic wormhole, connects locations, more specifically, cities across the world.
The result is a multi-sited, city-to-city memory that invites us to think of transnationalism not merely as a broadening of geographical scale but as a rethinking both of scale and of the relations between distance and proximity. Each ‘Bloody Sunday’ is a singular event at the same time as it is grafted onto the memory of other civilian massacres in other cities as these have travelled through the international media and the arts.
The perceived resonances between these multiple Bloody Sundays is enhanced by the visual record where the underlying drama of ‘citizens in action’ becoming victims of state violence is performed over and again in iconic images that capture the movement of the crowd, as they first assert their right to demonstrate and then have to flee from violence. This ambivalent combination of victimhood and agency seems to feed into the mobilizing power of such images, exemplifying Aby Warburg’s concept of Pathosformel (Pathosformula), a visible constellation that arouses both deep memory and deep affect.
So what sort of general issues can we distill from this very briefly presented example? Three interrelated things come to mind that bear on the issue of transnational memory and which are central to my research in progress.
To begin with the case serves as a reminder that the transnational movements of memory are not a recent phenomenon, though transnationalism as an analytic perspective may be. Nation-building has always stood in tension with the movement of ideas, stories, and images across borders – with the help of media but also regularly supported by the actions of groups and individuals with a self-consciously internationalist agenda working to make common cause with people elsewhere. Recuperating the archive of such transnational entanglements will allow cities and the civic, rather than nations, to take centre stage in our analysis and help us go beyond methodological nationalism while still giving due account to the role of the state.
Secondly, the case challenges cultural and literary studies to account more precisely for the movements of memory across borders – what gets remembered, picked up elsewhere and how? Judging by the resilience of ‘Bloody Sundays’ in the visual and textual record, there is something particularly potent about the combination of state violence and the right to protest. The ‘stickiness’ of these events in cultural memory, the fact that they are recalled over and again, could at least in part be explained by their melodramatic form. A Bloody Sunday involves the dramatic conversion of scenes of innocence and hope into scenes of brutal repression. The result is a double-faced, literally outrageous figure of memory that dramatizes the ideals and shortcomings of democracy in a melodramatic form, encapsulating both the agency of citizens (as evidenced in their power to demonstrate and to flee) and the limits of that power in face of the state. In the future we need a greater understanding of the role of such aesthetic forms in mobilising people, both within and beyond state borders, and for particular causes and not for others.
Finally, the case of Bloody Sunday challenges us to think more about, or to think in new ways, about the relationship between activism and memory, building further on Kristin Ross’s work on the afterlives of 1968. Certainly in the cases briefly considered above memory and activism are deeply entangled: the commemoration of the outrage feeds back into the broader struggle to which the original demonstration already belonged – be this the struggle for workers’ rights or for national liberation. Distentangling the commemoration-activism nexus might help us move beyond the over-emphasis on the traumatic in memory studies and to think more clearly about the ways in which remembering the past, acting in the present, and shaping a different future have worked together, and continue to do so, across national borders.
 Nora, Pierre, ed. 1997 [1984-92]. Les lieux de mémoire. 3 vols. Paris: Gallimard.
 Rigney, Ann. 2015. "Do Apologies End Events? Bloody Sunday, 1972-2010." In Afterlife of Events: Perspectives on Mnemohistory, edited by Marek Tamm, 242-261. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
 Erll, Astrid. 2011. "Travelling Memory." Parallax 17 (4): 4-18.
 Rothberg, Michael. 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
 See also De Cesari, Chiara, and Ann Rigney, eds. 2014. Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales. Berlin: De Gruyter.
 Hurttig, Marcus Andrew. 2012. Die entfesselte Antike: Aby Warburg und die Geburt der Pathosformel. Köln: Walther Hönig.
 Brooks, Peter. 1995 . The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
 Ross, Kristin. 2002. May ’68 and its Afterlives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Throughout the Fall 2014 semester, the University of Illinois marked the centenary of World War I with a faculty-led, cross-campus initiative, The Great War: Experiences, Representations, Effects. We are pleased to conclude this series of blog posts on the initiative with reflections from Michelle Salerno, graduate research assistant for the initiative and Ph.D. candidate in the Theatre Department. Michelle is currently finishing her dissertation, “Playing American: Citizenship and Race in American Theatre and Performance during the Great War, 1917-1919,” on theatrical representations of the Great War.
By Michelle Salerno
When coordinators Michael Rothberg and Marcus Keller offered me the opportunity to work as the programming assistant on “The Great War: Experiences, Representations and Effects” I was eager to combine my experience in event planning with my dissertation research on the circulation of notions of race and citizenship in American theatre and performance during the First World War. The scale of the initiative quickly developed as our core projects were enhanced by upcoming events from all parts of the campus and the community. An impressive list of cross-campus sponsors, that continued to grow over the semester, helped to support and publicize lectures, symposiums, exhibits, performances, films, and courses to foster a continuing dialogue about the war and its influence. For me, as I’m sure it was for many others, it was a true privilege to be immersed in the themes, topics, and questions raised throughout the fall and we hope to continue to encourage this dialogue.
Highlights of the Initiative
In considering the numerous events of the project, it is important to note the work of students, both undergraduate and graduate, in the initiative. In connection with the Illinois Theatre production of Oh What a Lovely War, the department’s programming committee helped to organize “Then and Now: Theatre and Performance of The Great War.” The program included a reading of Alice Dunbar Nelson’s Mine Eyes Have Seen (1918) performed by actors from the MFA and BFA Acting and Theatre Studies programs, theatre minors, non-theatre students from across disciplines, and a community member. The play is a key component of my dissertation and the chance to share this rarely performed work was an incredible opportunity. Following the performance, several Theatre Studies doctoral students presented papers on 21st century responses to the war including graphic novels, video games, and twitter war re-enactment.
Mine Eyes Have Seen offers a look at an African American family on the day they discover their youngest brother has been drafted. They debate, with their Jewish and Irish neighbors, if they are willing to contribute to the war effort on behalf of a country that allows lynch mobs and vigilante violence, racism, and segregation. The characters’ arguments for and against participating in the war profoundly resonated with current protests articulating the violence of institutional racism and the frequent disconnect between the rhetoric of nationalism and inclusion and the lived experiences of minority citizenship. Through directing and presenting the reading, my own understanding of the play expanded in innumerable ways thanks to the diligent work of the actors and the thoughtful feedback of the audience. In addition, the graduate students of “The Great War: Transnational Literary Response” reading group concluded their semester of meetings by discussing the play and offering comparative insights to the British and Irish literature they read for previous meetings. This group also worked with the English Student Council to organize a “Literature and War” event with readings of poetry and drama and the performance of live music.
There were also numerous undergraduate students who encountered events on the First World War through their courses. The core course World War I and the Making of the Global Twentieth Century, offered by Tamara Chaplin and Peter Fritzsche from the History department, delved deeply into the complexity of the war and its commemoration, and many of these students attended initiative events. In addition, we also know of other courses with World War I content or classes that required, requested, or encouraged their students to attend particular events or exhibits to enhance classroom discussions. The IPRH “Inside Scoop” undergraduate event, with Lessons from Sarajevo author James Hicks, was particularly popular and facilitated a remarkable conversation about literature and war within the group.
One of my favorite moments came in the final minutes of Oh What a Lovely War, a highly immersive theatre experience, when the relationship between the actors and the audience abruptly shifted in an extraordinary way. Since the department has chosen to remount the production in late February, I’ll refrain from divulging specifics, but I will note that the shift asks the audience to contextualize the First World War as part of a continuum of warfare through the sharing of personal history. Just as the Vietnam War ghosted the play when Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop first produced it in 1963, Robert Anderson’s production does not allow the audience to disconnect the First World War from our current moment. Instead, participants are encouraged to think through the complexities of war, violence, sacrifice, nationhood, citizenship, and personal history as a means to a deeper understanding of the continual making and re-making of history.
The Great War Commemoration that Surrounds Us
"The Great War: Experiences, Representations and Effects” was just a small contribution to the global recognition of the 100th anniversary of the start of the war including such responses as the beautifully somber 888,246 ceramic poppies that overwhelmed the Tower of London in Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, each standing for a British military fatality during the war. Research trips to other exhibits and events across the country have given me the opportunity to see how many American institutions examine the commemoration of the war. I highly recommend the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO that offers extensive collections on the war from a variety of perspectives and includes exhibits on its particular resonance in the Midwest. This museum also served as the primary American locus for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, hosting a large scale Twitter re-enactment of the event discussed by Theatre doctoral student BJ Gailey in “Acting is Reenacting: Twitter, Archduke Ferdinand, and the Performance of History” in the aforementioned panel. College students from the University of Kansas and members of the Kansas City community are still tweeting as historical First World War characters so you can continue to watch the story unfold by following @KU_WW1 on Twitter.
In fact, propaganda posters were the most prominent feature of the exhibits I’ve seen this summer and fall including our own “La Grande Guerre: French Posters and Photographs from World War I” at the Krannert Art Museum. The museum shop at the National World War I Museum sells reproductions of many of these posters including a “Destroy This Mad Brute” iPhone cover based on the notorious anti-German propaganda poster (a horrifying and tempting item for a researcher writing about race and enemization during the war). Even our own Classic Home Consignment store in Champaign has been selling World War I propaganda posters and I’ve been told they’ve sold quite a few already.
If you are attending the MLA Convention in Vancouver, please join us for this roundtable, which is affiliated with the Presidential Theme, “Negotiating Sites of Memory.” It will take place Sunday, January 11, 2015 from 10:15-11:30 am in room 3, Vancouver Convention Centre East.
Transnational Memories: Sites, Knots, Methods
In the past 25 years, memory studies has emerged as a new interdisciplinary field of cultural inquiry. It aims for insight into practices of public remembrance and the sociocultural dynamics through which mediations of the past shape collective identities and inform social action. The development of this field was linked from the outset to investigations of national memory cultures and institutions, with the nation‐state taken as the most self‐evident framework for analysis. Pierre Nora’s pioneering, influential, and contested study Les Lieux de Memoire (1984‐1992) encapsulated the link between “territorialization” (focusing on how memory narratives are fixed, located, contained, “inherited”) and the nation (as the self‐evident frame within which narratives operate and identities are shaped). With the turn towards transnational approaches in the last decade, however, the concept of “sites of memory” has come under pressure as the assumed framework for memory studies. This roundtable will explore the consequences of the transnational turn for the study of sites and practices of memory.
In our increasingly globalized, networked, and mediated world, alternatives to national models of memory as a resource for identity constructions are beginning to emerge without yet being fully understood. Memory discourses are variously deployed in the mobilization of social and political causes in the international arena, for instance, between the former East and former West in Europe. Illustrative of such transnational dynamics is the international spread of “public apologies” for past injustices or the recent evocation of “Dachau” on the part of Greek protestors against German‐led economic policies.
Developing better methodological and conceptual tools for studying these dynamics has now become a matter of scholarly urgency. This roundtable aims to introduce and discuss recent theoretical models that emphasize the dynamic and generative character of memory practices beyond the nation-state. Important groundwork has been done on this (by members of this roundtable among others), e.g. on "cosmopolitan memory" (Levy/Sznaider 2001), "multidirectional memory" (Rothberg 2009), "memory in the global age" (Assmann/Conrad 2010), “noeuds de mémoire/knots of memory” (Rothberg, Sanyal, Silverman 2010), "transcultural memory" (Crownshaw et al 2011), “travelling memory” (Erll 2011), “dialogical memory” (Assmann 2011), “moving testimony” (Kennedy 2014), and “transnational memory” (De Chesari/Rigney 2014).
The roundtable will bring together four scholars of cultural memory, based on three continents, who have been actively involved in promoting the transnational turn in memory studies: Rosanne Kennedy (ANU), Ann Rigney (Utrecht), Michael Rothberg (Illinois), and Debarati Sanyal (Berkeley). Three of the presenters (Kennedy, Rigney, and Rothberg) are part of an internationally funded research project called Network in Transnational Memory Studies (NITMES) and they will be able to draw on their experiences of collaboration across national borders. During the roundtable, each participant will provide a brief “position statement” of 10 minutes addressing some of the questions above; plenty of time will remain for discussion.
Question to be addressed may include the following:
To what extent is the concept of “sites of memory” still relevant? Can alternative models, such as “noeuds de mémoire/knots of memory,” supplement Nora’s original formulation?
What methodological innovations are necessary for moving the study of remembrance from local and national sites to transnational and global knots of memory?
How have phenomena such as migration, new media, and the formation of diasporic communities challenged the nation-state as framework of remembrance?
How will global environmental challenges that exceed the nation state - climate change, species extinction – be remembered? Can global environmental challenges provide new methods for memory beyond the nation?
How have commemorative practices circulated beyond the nation? (Possible, internationally relevant examples for consideration: 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I; 2015 is the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli as well as the Armenian Genocide.)
is an interdisciplinary program based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Founded in 2009 and located within the Program in Jewish Culture and Society, HGMS provides a platform for cutting-edge, comparative research, teaching, and public engagement related to genocide, trauma, and collective memory.