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Transnational Memories

Coordinators

Dr. Chiara de Cesari (UvA) & Dr. Luiza Bialasewicz (UvA)

Members of the research group

dr. H.J.M. van Baar
dr. L.A. Bialasiewicz
dr. P.A.L. Bijl
prof.dr. R. Boast
dr. C. de Cesari
dr. R. Esner
dr. S.F. Kruizinga
prof.dr. R. v.d. Laarse
M. Makhortykh MA
prof.dr. P. Pattynama
dr. S. Rajagopalan
prof.dr. E. Rutten
dr. I.A.M. Saloul
dr. A.L.B. van Weyenberg
External Members:
A. Etkind (Cambridge)
L. Passerini (Torino/EUI Florence)
A. Rigney (UU)
D. Tolia-Kelly (Durham University)

Description of the programme of the research group

This research group seeks to investigate how memory cultures, broadly conceived, change under conditions of transnationalism, paying particular attention to the relationship between memory and new formations of the public sphere. Also, a crucial objective of the group is to rethink memory studies beyond the field’s ingrained methodological nationalism that assumes the nation-state to be the natural container, curator, and telos of collective memory. Postcoloniality and migration, space-time compression and the internet, transnational capitalism but also larger regional integration processes and the deep reconfiguration of governance patterns have radically changed the frameworks of collective memory-making. Mnemonic communities can no longer be taken as co-substantial with national communities, new actors, media and modes of memory are emerging, and, crucially, these changes point to the ways in which scholars might have misunderstood the significance of the transnational mobility of memory also before the current phase of globalization. In examining memory in its multi-layered, multi-faceted and multi-scalar manifestations, we draw particular attention to two foci: postcolonial memories and digital remembrance.

Memory and Postcoloniality

While the legacies of colonialism and neocolonialism imbue multiple aspects of our daily lives and the political present, comparably not enough scholarly attention has been devoted to the nexus of memory
and postcoloniality in its many facets. What does it mean to take seriously the centrality of the (post)colonial legacy in thinking memory? This subgroup seeks to interrogate this nexus and to provide new theoretical and empirical perspectives on postcolonial, multicultural and diasporic memory cultures, and practices of private and public commemoration, heritagisation and musealisation. In particular, we seek to de-colonize the study of memory cultures and, especially, to disrupt the assumed interrelations between territory, identity, belonging - and memory. A strong focus lies with negotiations of colonial and post-colonial memories and global(ized), grassroots and migrant memory assemblages and networks. In engaging with mobile memories, we thus aim at redefining traditional spatio-temporal
understandings of memory that envision memory and commemoration in largely national-territorial terms, giving also voice to ‘other’ connections across both time and space. We are also interested in
rethinking the ways in which memories and memory-forms circulate globally and intersect with one another, and in exploring processes of deterritorialisation and reterriorialisation of memories.

Digitisation

Scholars still struggle to fathom the consequences of the media transformations of the last decade. Some argue that new media promote a global dialogue, resulting in the formation of transnational
memory cultures and in bottom-up opportunities to challenge national myths and authorities. They envision media platforms like Twitter as flagships of an unprecedented memory democratization. Others
are less optimistic and emphasize the new technologies’ potential for social and political abuse, surveillance and neo-colonial information control. Fierce web wars, where different views on the past
clash and languages of hatred reign, are just one example that illustrates the destructive power of digital media. Humanity has a long history of using technological advancements for nefarious purposes, so why – these scholars ask – should new media be an exception? This interdisciplinary research group will examine the influence of digitization on national and transnational memory formation. Central questions we hope to address focus on contemporary debates on new memory technologies and the extent to which digitization fosters transnational and cosmopolitan memory practices, and affects local realities and experiences.

Associated Research Projects

• “Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond” (L. Passerini, PI; L.Bialasiewicz, Co-I) European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant, Grant number 295854
• “At the Gates of Europe: Re-Mapping Tangiers” (L.Bialasiewicz, PI) National Geographic Society Global Exploration Fund, Grant number GEFNE20-11
• “Heritage beyond the Nation-State: Palestine and the Politics of Culture” (Chiara De Cesari)
• “Memory Voids and the Transnational Heritage of Europe” (Chiara De Cesari)
• “Webwars”, (Ellen Rutten), HERA Research Project (http://www.web-wars.org/)
• “War-II memory in Ukraine and its transformations in our digital age” (Mykola Makhortykh), PhD project.

Envisaged results

3-4 PhD dissertation, 3-4 edited volumes, peer reviewed articles, book chapters, seminars and workshops (the workshop ‘Digitization and (Trans)National Memory’ which is part of this group already took place at the UvA on 18 March 2013), develop NWO/ERC large grant proposal for future research.
Publications
• Memory, Conflict and New Media: Web Wars in Post-Socialist States. Ellen Rutten, Julie Fedor, Vera Zvereva (eds). New York: Routledge, 2013.
• Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales. Chiara De Cesari and Ann Rigney (eds). with de Gruyter, Media and Cultural Memory Series (2014)
6. Work plan and time schedule 2014-2018, with possible future extension

Societal relevance

The past is no longer a foreign country: in our digitized transnational age it increasingly transcends national and cultural borders. Yet, unlike older forecasts, we do not live in a seamless and borderless world. Social geographies are rapidly changing, but remembrance still provides a crucial terrain of identity and community making. Sites of memory proliferate, both offline and online. Our everyday landscapes are imbued with (post)colonial and multicultural memories. Every day we observe how people produce memory interacting across such media platforms as Twitter, Wikipedia and Facebook. But accelerated transnationalism does not appear to involve the end of power and hegemony in the making of memory, in spite of what unthinking celebratory visions of digital democracy and of the internet as free site of grassroots remembrance might suggest. Studying memory and cultural heritage in relation to both postcoloniality and technological developments will shed light on the growing political role of contemporary remembrance.