Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Were it not for the worldwide catastrophe of Covid-19, today is the day we would have been convening in Charlottesville for the fourth annual Memory Studies Association meeting. While there is much about which to be more concerned in the world today than a missed meeting, perhaps we might be permitted just a bit of sadness that we will not be able to gather together this week to renew relationships and exchange ideas.
There is, of course, a wider context: Namely, our conference was intentionally scheduled to coincide with “Juneteenth” in the United States, the occasion marking the end of slavery (or at least when the last enslaved people were finally informed of this). In the meantime, issues relating directly to the unworked-through memories of racialised violence have spilled into the public squares, including in Charlottesville (please see the photo below). These protests, of course, are not unconnected to the pandemic that caused us to cancel our meeting, which has made clear to many people the enormous disparities in health and well-being (among other things) rooted in historical injustice. Indeed, the combination of Covid and protests against police brutality has refocused attention onto the continued presence of atrocious monuments to atrocious ideas that first came to national attention three years ago in Charlottesville. In the wake of the grief and despair current events have generated, however, there has been a hopeful development: the repudiation not only of police violence and monuments of despicable ideas in the U.S. (long overdue), but globally as well.
Clearly, then, the forces of memory are at work even more obviously than usual in this remarkable moment. If you ever had any doubts about the importance of what we do, surely reality is proving otherwise! We are more grateful than ever for your continued enthusiasm, and eagerly await the next time we can be together to advance the important work we do. We hope very much that an in-person conference will be possible in Warsaw, 5-9 July 2021.
In the meantime, we are actively at work on initiatives that will advance our work even under the most difficult circumstances of disruption, as well as support each other as thinkers and as people. Please stay tuned for details of our forthcoming series of online events (Roundtables, author-meets-critics talks, and more), what we think of as the Digital MSA (dMSA). We also encourage you to be in touch with the Association’s leadership as well as with each other with your ideas and initiatives. Thank you for your membership in the MSA!
Aline Sierp, Jeff Olick & Jenny Wüstenberg