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28 February, 2012

We remember, therefore we are: Workshop to investigate Collective Memory hosted by Hebrew University’s Institute for Advanced Studies

Masada: site of collective memories
Masada: site of collective memories

The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will host a workshop from Feb. 28 to Mar. 2 that uses a comparative approach to examine the subject of collective memory. Researchers from Israel, China, Germany and the United States will examine the similarities and differences between cultures in an attempt to develop a grammatical code of collective memory, and integrate theory with practice by touring locations of collective memory in Israel, such as Masada, the Old City of Jerusalem and Mt. Herzl.

''The idea of a public or social memory is not new but it's highly relevant, both in research and in society and politics. Around the world, new museums and monuments are erected all the time, and new movies are created regularly, dealing with stories from humanity's past,'' explains the workshop's organizer, Prof. Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University. ''All these projects express a desire for contact with the past, but they're also accompanied by ‘battles of memory’ between different groups, and thus raise questions regarding culture, social structure, representation, politics, knowledge and many other subjects.''

Among the participants are two researchers from Nanking University in China. Once China's capital, in 1937 Nanking was the stage of the Nanking Massacre when, for six weeks, Japanese soldiers murdered hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and raped tens of thousands men, women and children. This puts Nanking at the forefront of the Chinese collective memory.

Also participating in the workshop is Prof. Jeffrey Alexander, co-director of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, who has written in the past about the memory of the Holocaust in the United States and about cultural trauma. His presentation will deal with collective trauma and how it shapes our past, present and future.

Another speaker is Prof. Jeffrey K. Olick from Virginia University, who studies collective memory and the politics of regret. Among his publications is the book In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943-1949, which deals with Germany’s moral dilemma after the Second World War, namely how to build a postwar German identity that accounted for Nazism without permanently destroying the idea and character of Germany as a whole. At the workshop he will talk about the geographical and conceptual flows in the politics of regret.

In addition, the workshop will host a special screening of the Israeli movie ''Footnote.'' One of this year's nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars (Academy Awards), it tells of two generations of researchers at the Department of Talmud at the Hebrew University, each one representing a different approach to research in the field. Filming took place throughout the Hebrew University.

The workshop will take place between Feb. 28 and March 2. All lectures (except during the excursion to Masada) will take place in Room 115 of the Feldman Building, at the Edmond J. Safra campus in Givat Ram. All the lectures are in English.

 

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