CFP: Past (Im)Perfect Continuous. Trans-Cultural Articulations of the Postmemory of WWII

June 26-28, 2018 University of Rome, “La Sapienza”

In 1992 Gunter Demnig, a German artist born after the end of WWII, starts the ​Stolperstein project, the world’s largest decentralized memorial, consisting of small, cobblestone-sized brass plaques set in the pavement in front of the buildings where the victims of National Socialism lived. Private memories thus go public, flooding the streets of more than 20 European countries and penetrating their social fabric. The project is still ongoing and as of April 2017 there are over 60,000 stumbling stones; this memorial is hence diffused as well as continuous, always in the making so that generations to come may continue to stumble over the past. Roughly in the same years, Marianne Hirsch proposed the term “postmemory” to define the memorial condition of the offspring of Holocaust survivors; a concept eventually broadened into a cultural category, a structure that can accommodate both trans-/inter-generational and horizontal transmission of traumatic memories. Postmemory portrays this transfer as an overwhelming flow bursting the banks of direct witnessing, spilling over the spectators and turning them into vicarious witnesses. This contiguity between direct and indirect involvement, first generation and later ones, the event and its aftermath makes remembrance an endless practice. Memory is thus a process – rather than a result. It is mediated, negotiated, always redefined, interrupted and resumed; a journey scattered with stumbling moments. While its original formulation referred to the Holocaust, “postmemory”, by Hirsch’s own admission, can usefully be applied to the wider context of WWII. The rise of the far right both in Europe and in the US precisely at a time in which the direct witnesses and survivors of the dramatic events of WWII (including the Holocaust, but not only) are dying out, makes the need for a strong memorialization—for a solid stone to stumble upon, as it were—as urgent today as ever. But, what kind of memory can the younger generations bring to the table? How does this second- or third-hand memorialization negotiate the inevitable mediation of “prosthetic memories,” to use Alison Landsberg’s term, to revive a historical past to which they have not been ​directly
​ exposed to? What kind of immediacy can such memories bring about; can they indeed be felt ​as if
​ actually experienced? In our use of the term, “postmemory” is ​imperfect
​ in the sense that it is not stable and finite, but on the contrary it needs and stimulates a ​continuous
​ renegotiation and recalibration. Such a ​past
​ ​imperfect continuous
​ is subject to continuous updates and modifications that reflect new sensibilities and/or cultural and political needs. In the last 20 years, scholars in memory studies have grappled with the same phenomenon, articulating it in different categories such as: “hypermemory” (Eva Hoffman), “multidirectional memory”
(Michael Rothberg), “cultural memory” (Aleida Assman), and “prosthetic memory” (Alison Landsberg).

We are interested in examining innovative re-articulations/reformulations of the concept of “postmemory” that take into account trans-cultural and trans-medial transmissions of traumatic memories of WWII in Europe and the US. Possible topics and areas include, but are not limited to, the following: – ​Postmemory of WWII in comics and graphic novels, – ​Postmemory of WWII in films and documentaries, – ​Postmemorial museums and memorials, – ​Postmemory of the Resistance, – ​Postmemory and Forgetting, – ​Postmemory and/as Vicarious Trauma, – Landscapes of Holocaust postmemory, – ​Postmodernism and postmemory, – ​Memory immediacy and mediation, – ​Gendered transmission of memory and (en)gendering postmemory, – ​Meta reflection on postmemory as critical category, – ​Private and intimate/familial/social/collective/political postmemory, – ​Ethics and politics of memory and of postmemory, – ​Postmemory as defining identity, – ​Affective and bodily dimensions of postmemory, – ​Emotional contagion, appropriation, and a-critical identification with victims – Postmemory, Memorialization and/in the Anthropocene

We welcome proposals for individual papers and full panels. Submissions should include a title, a 250 word abstract and a short bio and contact information. Full panel proposals should include a title and a 200 word rationale for the panel as a whole, plus a 250-word abstract, short bio and contact information for each contributor. Panels require three presenters and need to leave time for discussion (panels are 90 minutes long). We encourage international panels that include panelists with diverse affiliations, career experiences, disciplines and literary/cultural traditions. Although we welcome international and comparatist approaches, the conference will be conducted in English and Italian.
Please submit proposals by ​March 11 2018​ to ​ Accepted proposals will be notified by the end of March. Please direct any questions about the conference and the submission process to ​

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