“Thinking Through the Future of Memory” – Inaugural Conference of the Memory Studies Association, Amsterdam
January 28, 2017
From 3rd to the 5th of December 2016, almost 200 memory scholars as well as practitioners from many different countries came together in Amsterdam. The conference organized by CERiM Member Aline Sierp and Jenny Wüstenberg (York University, Toronto, Canada) welcomed leading figures in the field of memory studies, including Michael Rothberg, Astrid Erll, Ann Rigney, Daniel Levy, Jan Kubik, Erica Lehrer, William Hirst, Siobhan Kattago, Jeffrey Olick, Wulf Kansteiner and Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi. Hosted at De Nieuwe Liefde, the conference included three roundtables with well-known scholars, thirteen panels, as well as two professional development events.
By Aline Sierp
Both junior and senior scholars from a broad range of disciplines, including experimental and social psychology, sociology, political science, history, media studies and many more were equally among the attendees.
Based on the premise that Memory studies is currently undergoing rapid expansion and is receiving growing recognition in academic and policy circles while the field’s expansion has not been matched by concomitant advances in theoretical groundwork, methodological sophistication and professional organization, a central goal of this conference was to focus on these concerns and to bring together people working in different fields to exchange their expertise and ideas. A second aim was to take first steps in setting up an international Memory Studies Association that will gather under its umbrella all the already existing smaller scholarly groups working on memory issues, as well as providing a home to research-oriented practitioners and policy-makers. The panels followed the format of five short presentations, each designed to stimulate discussion with the audience, for which plenty of time was allotted. In addition to formal events, there were many informal opportunities for networking among conference attendees: at the reception, at the start of the conference, during breaks, at the thematic dinner groups that were initiated by the organizers but led by participants, at a post-conference lunch meeting, and the “Black Heritage” walking tour of Amsterdam. Breaking out of the traditional conference format and asking participants to present short provocative think pieces turned out to be very beneficial for stimulating discussions. Overall, the conference was notable for the spirit of cross-disciplinary exchange and the sense of being engaged in a foundational moment for the field of Memory Studies. The conference was accompanied by vibrant activity on Twitter and Facebook, suggesting a considerable effect beyond Amsterdam.
The conference was generously supported by the Centre for European Research at Maastricht University, the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, the Council for European Studies, the Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam, Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Universiteitsfonds Limburg, the German Academic Exchange Service (supported by the German Foreign Office), the Canadian Center for German and European Studies at York University in Toronto, the Institute for German Studies at Birmingham University, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, the Access Europe project at Amsterdam University, and the Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform. The next conference will take place in Copenhagen from 14-16 December 2017. For further information and for impressions of the 2016 conference please visit:
Aline Sierp is Assistant Professor in European Studies at Maastricht University. She holds a PhD in Comparative European Politics and History from the University of Siena (IT). Her research interests cover collective memory after experiences of human rights violations, questions of identity and European integration. Before joining the Maastricht University, Aline Sierp worked as researcher at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site (DE). She has published widely on memory and identity issues and is the author of History, Memory and Transeuropean Identity: Unifying Divisions (Routledge, 2014).