Politics of Memory in Global Context

Impossible Narratives: Historicizing Mass Trauma

February 17, 2011 · 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Columbia University, Faculty House, Presidential Room

What are the conditions for individual memory of the kinds of mass historical experience now generally labeled “traumatic” to become social memory — i.e. both capable of and amenable to persuasive public narration? What factors prevent or delay the process — psychological, political, or social — and through what mechanisms does such social memory emerge? This workshop seeks to examine ‘impossible narratives’ of such experiences, especially inasmuch as they are incongruent with competing narratives of self, state or society represented as essential or primordial in the wake of mass trauma; the ways in which their “impossibility” persists for long periods of time; and how it might be overcome.

Organized by Carol Gluck (Columbia University), Thomas J.W. Hill (Columbia University), and Denis Peschanski (CNRS)

Learn more about the Politics of Memory in Global Context.


Keynote Address: The Numinosity of History: Impossible Narrative in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables

  • Eelco H. Runia, Research Fellow Department of History, University of Groningen

Panel 1: Obstacles to Memory

"Remembering and Forgetting the Unforgettable: The Dynamics of Individual and Social Memory Following Traumatic Events"

  • Adam D. Brown, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine

"Double, Triple Entrapment: The Harki Story"

  • Vincent Crapanzano, CUNY Graduate Center

"The French Exodus of 1940 and Hidden Children during the "Dark Years""

  • Denis Peschanski, Research Director, CNRS, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Moderator: Brigitte Sion, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, Program in Religious Studies, New York University

Panel 2: Public Secrets

"A History Written Before the End - and After: The Holocaust between Fear, Memory and Trial"

  • Florent Brayard, Research Fellow, CNRS, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

"Lieux d'Oubli: Sites of Forgetting"

  • Jens Meierhenrich, Senior Lecturer, Department of International Relations, London School of Economics

"Writing Interview Testimony of Collective Trauma into History: The Case of Srebrenica"

  • Selma Leydesdorff, Professor of Oral History and Culture, University of Amsterdam; Fellow, Remarque Institute, New York University
  • Moderator: Carol Gluck, Committee Member, Committee on Global Thought; George Sansom Professor of History, Columbia University

Panel 3: Traumatic Memory in the Middle East

"Recognizing Violence: On the Late Poetry of Sargon Boulus (1941-2007)"

  • Sinan Antoon, Assistant Professor, Gallatin School NYU - Arabic Literature

"‘Events are Continuous': Impossible Narratives in Gaza"

  • Thomas J.W. Hill, Research Scholar, Committee on Global Thought; Lecturer, Department of History, Columbia University

"Making the Modern Primitive: Humanitarianism and Ahistoricity in the West Bank"

  • Peter Lagerquist, Writer and Journalist
  • Moderator: Salim Tamari, Professor of Sociology, Bir Zeit University; Arcapata Visiting Professor, Center for Palestine Studies/Middle East Institute, Columbia University

Concluding Remarks

  • Carol Gluck, George Sansom Professor of History, and Committee Member, Committee on Global Thought;Columbia University