This past June, the Memory Studies Association held its Third Annual Memory Studies Conference at the historic Complutense University Madrid. Hundreds of memory scholars from all over the world flocked to the city for the four-day conference, which was co-sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The conference primarily took place at the Faculty of Philology buildings, which was a fitting location (considering its central role during the Spanish Civil War) to contemplate and reflect on the role of memory in our world today. 

The largest conference on memory studies to date, the program featured a keynote lecture from Aleida Assman (University of Konstanz) and Viet Thanh Nguyen (USC) and multiple roundtables and special sessions, like the one on “Memory Traditions around the World”, which included our colleague Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair (St. Cloud State University). Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from prominent scholars on topics such as publishing, careers in memory studies, institutional memory politics, and memory activism. These roundtables were especially helpful for graduate students and gave them the opportunity to interact with scholars like Jeffrey Olick, Barbie Zelizer, Astrid Erll, Daniel Levy, Marianne Hirsch, and Michael Rothberg. With over 200 panels, attendees were treated to a comprehensive look at the state of memory studies today.

Photo from the Memory Studies Association

In addition to scholars from around the globe, our very own graduate students and professors participated in this year’s conference. From second-year PhD students to established professors, the Minnesota contingent did a fantastic job showcasing their work and participating in discussions concerning the future of memory studies. The strong presence of UMN scholars from various departments across CLA demonstrates not only its interdisciplinary nature but the importance of the field. Through their own scholarly work and support of graduate students, professors such as Alejandro Baer (Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies), Joachim Savelsberg (Sociology), and Ofelia Ferrán (Spanish and Portuguese) have ensured that students are constantly thinking about the critical role of memory in historical, socio-political and literary scholarship. 

List of Presenters and Papers:

Alejandro Baer: “De-colonizing Columbus? Spain’s resistance to a “Politics of Regret.”

Ofelia Ferrán: “Francesc Torres: The Performance of Trauma.”

Joachim Savelsberg: Roundtable, “American Exceptionalism in Memory Politics.” 

Darlene St. Clair (St. Cloud State University): Roundtable, “Connecting Memory Traditions around the World.” 

Michal Kobialka: “Of Awkward Objects and Collateral Memories.”

Christopher Levesque: ‘Denkmäler der Scand’ in Charlottesville and Berlin: Comparing Far-Right Populism and Collective Memory in the American and German Context.”

Taylor Nelson: “American before Anything Else: Race and Responsibility in the U.S. Peace Corps.”

Erma Nezirevic: “Pedir un café puede costarte la vida”: Phobias of Democracy in (Post-) Crisis Spain

Jazmine Contreras: “‘We do not commemorate perpetrators’: The Politics of Memory at the May 4th Remembrance Day Commemoration in the Netherlands.”

Jazmine Contreras is a sixth-year PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation examines contemporary historical memory of the Second World War and Holocaust in the Netherlands.