Aline Sierp organises Inaugural Conference Memory Studies Association

Aline Sierp successfully organised together with Jenny Wüstenberg (York University, Toronto) the inaugural conference of the newly founded Memory Studies Association. Held in Amsterdam on 3-5 December, the conference attracted close to 200 memory scholars and practitioners. The programme included three roundtables with well-known scholars, 13 panels, as well as two professional development events. The next conference will take place in Copenhagen on 14-16 December 2017. 

From 3 to 5 December 2016, almost 200 memory scholars, as well as practitioners – such as memorial staff, artists, human rights activists, transitional justice lawyers – from many different countries came together in Amsterdam. Attendees included both junior and senior scholars from a broad range of disciplines, including experimental and social psychology, sociology, political science, history, art history, media studies, cultural studies, literary studies, anthropology and more. Also present were most of the leading figures in the field of memory studies, including Michael Rothberg, Astrid Erll, Ann Rigney, Daniel Levy, Jan Kubik, Erica Lehrer, William Hirst, Siobhan Kattago, Jeffrey Olick, Wulf Kansteiner, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi, among others. Hosted at De Nieuwe Liefde, the conference included three roundtables with well-known scholars, thirteen panels, as well as two professional development events. The conference was organised by Aline Sierp (Maastricht University) and Jenny Wüstenberg (York University, Toronto).

Based on the premise that Memory studies is currently undergoing rapid expansion and is receiving growing recognition in academic and policy circles while the field’s expansion has not been matched by concomitant advances in theoretical groundwork, methodological sophistication and professional organisation, a central goal of this conference was to focus on these concerns and to bring together people working in different fields to exchange their expertise and ideas. A second aim was to take first steps in setting up an international Memory Studies Association that will gather under its umbrella all the already existing smaller scholarly groups working on memory issues, as well as providing a home to research-oriented practitioners and policy-makers. The panels followed the format of five short presentations, each designed to stimulate discussion with the audience, for which plenty of time was allotted. Panel topics included: Memory and Theory, Memory and the Arts, Memory Going Nowhere?, Memory Concepts, Memory Regions, Memory as a Field, Combining Disciplines, Connecting Scholars and Practitioners, Euro-Centrism in Memory Studies, Methodology in Memory Studies, Memory and the Media, Places of Memory and Places of Amnesia.

Breaking out of the traditional conference format and asking participants to present short provocative think pieces turned out to be very beneficial for stimulating discussions. Overall, the conference was notable for the spirit of cross-disciplinary exchange and the sense of being engaged in a foundational moment for the field of Memory Studies.

The next conference will take place in Copenhagen from 14-16 December 2017. For further information and for impressions of the 2016 conference please visit http://www.memorystudiesassociation.org.

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