Symposium: New Directions and Challenges in Cultural Memory Studies: Past, Present, Future

14-15 June 2016. GCSC, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Giessen

At a time when memory studies has become a fixture of the interdisciplinary research landscape, this two-day symposium engages critically with the development of the field, the current state of research and points to future directions in cultural memory studies. Prof. Astrid Erll’s (Frankfurt) keynote lecture “New Directions and Challenges in Cultural Memory Studies: Past, Present, Future” on Tuesday 14 June (from 18:00) will frame the key questions guiding this event. A roundtable discussion featuring leading scholars from Frankfurt, Giessen will complete the programme on Wednesday (from 17:00). The core of the two-day programme will see members, associates and partners of the Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform at Goethe University, Frankfurt, and the GCSC/GGK at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, present their current research and reflections on conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues in memory studies.

Showcasing PhD candidates’ and postdocs’ research, the five panels will discuss cultural memory in relation to postcolonial studies and reconciliation, institutions, literature, film, and digital media. Rather than offer narrow perspectives on particular topics or regions, the symposium highlights the entangled inter- and multidisciplinary concerns both in memory studies’ more established foci as well as in the field’s more recent developments. The participants’ talks show how both the colonial and socialist pasts continue to influence the present, while institutions continue to provide a conflicted and contested foundation of memory cultures. Mass media, such as literature, film and digital ones, are explored in their role as important mediators between diverse publics and audiences, on the one hand, and political and institutional actors on the other. The diversity of the papers provides a transnational and transcultural perspective enabling detailed investigation of how both historically and in the twenty-first century memory processes are negotiated in various cultural contexts.

The concluding roundtable discussion featuring Prof. Horst Carl, Prof. Astrid Erll, Prof. Andreas Langenohl and Prof. Ansgar Nünning will offer a forum for broader reflection on the themes of the symposium and the place of memory studies in the study of culture. The discussion will reflect on the legacies of the Sonderforschungsbereich (SFB) Erinnerungskulturen, or Collaborative Research Centre on Cultures of Memory, founded in 1997 at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, which set out to intensify and broaden the study of memory, emphasizing above all “the plurality of cultural memory” (Erll 2011, 49). Like the entire two-day event, the roundtable will reflect on developments in the past twenty years, on the current state of memory studies and its possible futures in a changing academic, cultural and social landscape. In this respect, it is a particular highlight that the symposium invites some of the initiators of the SFB Erinnerungskulturen and new experts to continue the “thorough historicization of the category of memory” (Erstantrag, 11) and to reflect on the development of memory studies in past, present and future.

Conference Report (by Jarula Wegner)


Tuesday 14 June

13:45 Welcome and Introduction: Michael Basseler and Jelena Dureinovic

14:00 Symposium Panel 1: Memory and Reconciliation in Postcolonial and Postsocialist Contexts
Discussant: Pavan Kumar Malreddy; Chair: Jelena Dureinovic
Nikola Baković “Bronze of Contention: Remembering Marshal Stepa Stepanović in Čačak (Serbia)”
Hanna Teichler “Of binaries and transgressions – memory studies, performance theory and Canada’s Roadmap to Reconciliation”
Kaya Alice de Wolff “Memory Conflicts in Postcolonial Media Cultures: Struggles for Recognition of the Genocide on Herero and Nama in the Public Media Discourse in contemporary Germany”

16:00 Symposium Panel 2: Memory and Film
Discussant: Senta Siewert; Chair: Jarula M. I. Wegner
Eva Jungbluth “Visual Memory Tropes in Graphic Narratives”
Nadia Butt “Memory and Media: ‘House’ as a Realm of Memory in Pakistani Television Drama”
Erin Högerle “Film Festivals and the Memory Industries”

18:00 Keynote Lecture: Prof. Astrid Erll (Frankfurt)
“New Directions and Challenges in Cultural Memory Studies: Past, Present, Future”

Wednesday 15 June

10:00 Symposium Panel 3: Memory and Transnational Literature
Discussant: Joanna Rostek; Chair: Jarula M. I. Wegner
Sayma Khan “Reading South Asian Partition Literature across linguistic and temporal distance”
Maria Elisabeth Dorr “Collapsible spaces and distant storyworlds in (trans)cultural memory studies”

11:30 Symposium Panel 4: Memory and Institutions
Discussant: Paul Vickers; chair: Jelena Dureinovic
Dora Komnenović “Discarding a Common Past: The «Cleansing» of Croatian and Slovenian Libraries in the 1990s and Beyond”
Mirko Milivojevic “(‘Yugo’)nostalgia and cultural memory – towards alternative past(s) and present?”
Yingjie Zhang “One man’s memory of WWII that links the West with the East: John Rabe and his diaries”

13:00 Lunch

14:30 Symposium Panel 5: Memory and Digital/New Media
Discussant: Astrid Erll; Chair: Paul Vickers
Sophie-Charlotte Opitz “Framing Remembrance – Encountering Memory: A Case Study on Conceptual War Photography and its Strategy to Educate Memory Practices in Museums”
Christina Jordan “A Prince Producing Memories? The Active Production of Collective Memories in Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee”
Ana Lúcia Migowski and Willian Fernandes Araújo “‘Looking Back’ at memories on Facebook: Remembering an being remembered by digital technologies”

17:00 Roundtable discussion “Challenges and New Directions in Cultural Memory Studies?” featuring Horst Carl, Astrid Erll, Andreas Langenohl and Ansgar Nünning
Chairs: Paul Vickers and Jarula M. I. Wegner

All events will be hosted at the GCSC (Graduiertenzentrum GGK), room 001, Alter Steinbacher Weg 38, 35394 Giessen. Anyone wishing to attend the event, or parts of it, is invited to register via email at

The event is organised collaboratively between the GCSC, Giessen, and the Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform. The co-organisers are Jelena Dureinovic, Erin Hoegerle, Paul Vickers and Jarula M. I. Wegner.