Online Seminar

Figuring Memory:
Social Practices and Collective Transformation

October 19, 2021
17:00 – 19:00 CEST/UTC+2

The monthly seminar “Figuring Memory: Social Practices and Collective Transformation” organized by the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention at The American University of Paris in partnership with the CNRS, the ENS Paris-Saclay, Paris Nanterre University and Sciences Po is starting this month. Please join us Tuesday, October 19, 2021, from 17:00 to 19:00 CEST online for the first session of the seminar. Rebecca Hale, Senior Research Fellow at UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, will talk about the challenges and considerations involved in evaluating the impact of Holocaust education programs.

The Zoom link will be shared with registered attendees a few hours before the start of the seminar. Please register at least 24 hours before the event. Register for the first session here:

About the “Figuring Memory: Social Practices and Collective Transformation” Seminar

The notion of collective or social memory has compelled substantial scholarly attention as a means for theorizing socially shared meanings and their political and structural consequences. Recently, a field of “memory studies” has emerged with journals, conferences, and a lively interdisciplinary exchange. Simultaneously, collective memory has developed an applied, practical, emphasis on producing or consolidating social values and the practice of memory has also compelled substantial social and political engagement. Public and private organizations have invested vast resources in memory practices as a means for teaching social justice, combating prejudice, and preventing future atrocities. Public spaces, museums, sites of atrocity, and classrooms have become sites for remembrance in order to combat prejudice, prevent the repetition of past violence, and instill the values necessary for tolerant and open societies. In all these social spaces, the practice of witnessing is a persistent feature.

The efficacy of memory practices for social betterment is most often taken axiomatically and uncritically as an established fact. Educators, policy makers, and scholars often seem to assume that teaching about past instances of racism, exclusion, and violence will inspire personal and social change. Can teaching about past instances of racism, exclusion, and violence inspire personal and social change? Can narration of the past contribute to transforming society? A robust literature of well-executed studies is still developing and more scholarship is needed in order to answer this question and better understand what is at stake when collective memory is employed in the service of shared values and when such memory practices are, or are not, effective. Furthermore, it is important to investigate if alternative practices might have a greater impact.

The Figuring Memory monthly seminar aims to launch a sustained discussion with scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines and perspectives engaged with these questions. The seminar takes a comparative perspective, examining past and recent atrocities across the globe and with different motivations and intentions.

Organizers: Sarah Gensburger, Sandrine Lefranc, Constance Pâris de Bollardière, and Brian Schiff

More info about the seminar: