28 - 31 August 2013
Torino, Italy

RS04 – Culture, Conflicts and Public Memory

Anna Lisa Tota tota@uniroma3.it University Rome 3, Italy
Rudi Laermans rudi.laermans@soc.kuleuven.be Centre for Sociological Research, Leuven, Belgium

Memory studies have attracted increasing interest among scholars during the last decades. Even in its discontinuities, the future is built upon the past. The selective inscription of the past in the public discourse through cultural artefacts, commemorative ceremonies, sites, and monuments has become a central issue in the agenda of many democratic governments, and the politics of reconciliation seem to represent a new mode of the international relations among nations. Despite their integrative nature, celebrations of the past are often highly contested. This is the case of war memorials, and memorial over victims of terrorist attacks, which become object of heated debates both in Europe and in the rest of the world (the projects for commemorating the victims of September 11 in New York, and March 11 in Madrid, for example). Other striking instances of the contestable nature of public memory practices are can be found in the sphere of national commemorative ceremonies that imply references to colonial history or in the way former Communist countries deal with their past. The narration of the past, the maintenance and loss of collective memories is clearly a matter of meaning, power, argumentation, and persuasion. Several versions of the same event compete in the public arena, where different “lobbies of the past” struggle to impose their own “preferred meanings” on the past itself. Traditions persist and are “invented” to legitimate old and new forms of power. Cultural symbols and artistic codes become resources for articulating these shared visions and struggles over the past that shape national and collective identities. In which respects is the past an aspect of politics? What is the role of culture in the formation of the past and in the maintenance of international relations among nations? To what extent is culture manipulable as a space for the articulation of power and ideologies? Conversely, to what extent is the exercise of power a cultural performance? What is the interaction between cultural and social processes that shapes collective memories, with stable and changing public representations of controversial pasts, and with conflict among different groups over issues related to ethnicity, race, class, gender, and religious belief? This research stream focuses on culture and the arts as forms of meaning-making and mediating power relations in contemporary societies. We welcome proposals for papers on these and other issues concerned with arts, culture, collective memories, controversial pasts, meaning, and power.

Recommended keywords: Collective memory, culture, public discourse, tradition, identity, counter culture, arts, power, resistance, terrorism, war.


Thank you very much to all participants for making esa torino an outstanding conference.