What is the appropriate response to the echoes of historical wounding that extend far beyond the generation that experienced the trauma directly? What strategies might quell the haunting repercussions of genocide, slavery, colonial oppression, and mass violence that play out in the lives of affected individuals and groups from both sides of these acts? In what ways might these strategies complicate our understanding of the roles of “victim” and “perpetrator”? In the aftermath of violent pasts, and when people have suffered collective trauma, how are these events remembered, interpreted and articulated? How might we map out the arc of historical trauma as a nexus for the interweaving of individual and collective traumatic memories? Is new language necessary to capture the complexities of historical trauma and memory cultures that have emerged in a global context of human rights and of truth commissions as strategies to advance national recovery and healing? This conference will bring together a group of scholars and practitioners from different disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on these vexed questions of historical wounding and its haunting legacies.
The conference is a collaboration between Historical Trauma and Transformation Research Initiative at Stellenbosch University and the Australian Human Rights Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. The political turbulence and the intergenerational struggles that are playing out in post-apartheid South Africa and the raging debates in Australia about the failure of the Australian Constitution to recognise the rights of Aboriginal Australians make these two countries important starting points as sites of reflection on the themes of this international conference. The conference, however, has a transnational and multicultural focus, and will take discussions beyond South Africa and Australia. Discussions should showcase some of the latest research in this area in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and engage in critical reflection on the representation of historical trauma through the creative arts—including film, photography, theatre and visual arts.
The conference aims to deepen understanding of the transgenerational repercussions of traumatic pasts in a range of cultural contexts, to explore how different disciplines represent this transgenerational phenomenon, and through a comparative lens, to contribute to new knowledge production in this area of research. Our starting point is that engaging in this comparative reflection is more essential than ever, to advance scholarship and to create a new archive that understands memory and traumatic pasts as transnational and cross-cultural.
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