Initially conceptualized by Michel Foucault in 1971, the concept of counter-memory has since become one of the key terms in the interdisciplinary field of memory studies and has been applied in versatile and sometimes even contradictory ways (Wegner 2020). For example, counter-memory may lend itself to the description of marginalized or suppressed memories in opposition to canonical and hegemonic ones or it may work as an operational concept to explore acts of resistance and contradiction. Moreover, through the notion of countering, counter-memory always implies relationality, for instance, in the forms of interdiscursivity or negotiations between opposing stances.
As Davis and Starn put it, ‘memory operates under the pressure of challenges and alternatives’ (Davis and Starn 1989, 2). In George Lipsitz’ definition, ‘Counter-memory looks to the past for the hidden histories of those excluded from dominant narratives’, it ‘demands revision of existing narratives by supplying new perspectives about the past’ and ‘focuses on localized experiences with oppression, using them to reframe and re-focus dominant narratives purporting to represent universal experience’ (Lipsitz 1989, 162).
These thoughts resonate with Ann Rigney’s idea, that creative arts such as movies and novels can create ‘memorability’ of forgotten or marginalized histories (Rigney 2021, 12). As she has stated elsewhere, the effort to (re-)insert forgotten events into cultural memory can take the form of ‘memory activism,’ just as the remembrance of earlier activism can be seen as a form of counter-memory that supports present struggles for a better world (‘memory in activism’). This ‘memory-activism nexus,’ which also includes cultural ‘memory of activism,’ illuminates the way in which counter-memories are brought forth from below (Rigney 2018, 372).
The 2022 MSA Nordic conference will focus on exploring the notion of counter-memory from various perspectives. We wish to invite contributions focusing on theoretical, methodological, and ethical explorations of the concept as well as case studies focusing on specific counter-memories or acts of countering. Proposals can be submitted for individual papers and they can address, but are not limited to, the following themes and issues:
- Anti- and post-colonial memory cultures
- Post-socialist memory cultures
- Memory work by anti-racist, feminist, queer, or people with disabilities
- Teaching for change
- Counter-memory as conspiracy theory
- Counter-memory as (counter)productive process
Please submit your proposals (max 400 words) with short biographical note (max 200 words) to MSANordic2022@gmail.com by 1 December 2021. The conference will most likely be a hybrid one with an online component.
Davis, Natalie Zemon and Randolph Starn 1989. ‘Introduction’. Representations 26: 1–6
Foucault, Michel 1977. ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.’ In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, pp. 139–164. Ed. D. F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Lipsitz, George 1989: ‘Myth, History, and Counter-Memory.’ In Politics and the Muse: Studies in the Politics of Recent American Literature, pp. 161–178. Ed. J. Sorkin. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
Rigney, Ann 2018. ‘Remembering Hope: Transnational Activism beyond the Traumatic.’ Memory Studies 11(3): 368–380.
Rigney, Ann 2021. ‘Remaking Memory and the Agency of the Aesthetic.’ Memory Studies 14(1): 10–23.
Wegner, Jarula MI 2020: ‘Rethinking countermemory: Black-Jewish negotiations in rap music.’ Memory Studies 13(6): 1219–1234.