‘Memory on Trial’: Book launch of new Örecomm anthology

by Tobias Denskus on June 3, 2015

in Comdev News,ComDev staff,Staff articles

90531-4_Hansen.inddLast week ComDev’s Oscar Hemer and Anders Hög-Hansen launched a new anthology, Memory on Trial, a collection based on papers presented at the 2013 Örecomm festival:

This book approaches the memory sharing of groups, communities and societies as inevitable struggles over the interpretation of, and authority over, particular stories. Coming to terms with the past in memory work, alone or with others, is always unsteady ground and the activation of memory will always relay imaginations of futures we want to shape and inhabit. The contributors all explore in different ways how citizens can actualize a public and how citizens and groups struggle with their pasts and presents – and other group’s understandings – in their work for futures they dream of, or envision. This implies an engagement with the notion of social justice, which in turn entails trial and revision of ideas and procedures of how to share the world. But to share also requires some kind of common ground and distributed power. The anthology thus engages with a range of cases that bring views and voices back in public, demanding justice, recognition, sometimes literally triggering new trials. Some of the memory work is done strategically, in the context of communication for development and social change interventions where NGOs, community-based organizations, governments or UN agencies pursue not just voice and views, but also very material demands for social justice and social change.

Social justice: A central notion of all contributions
photo 3The potentiality of citizen engagement around social justice is of importance in societal debates concerning what, how and for whom we remember, not least in transitional processes of attempted healing and reconciliation after incidents of massacres or mass-violence. Such traumatic events are most often concealed, and witnesses silenced or ignored, either to preserve impunity for the perpetrators, or for the sake of “moving on.” Yet telling the story in all its horrific detail may be a prerequisite for true reconciliation. Whether formally, through truth commissions and memorials, or informally, through grassroots initiatives or artistic interventions, memories of collective trauma need to be constructed and maintained, in order for a society to acknowledge and possibly come to terms with appalling and shameful parts of its history.

photo 10Living memory as a way to move forward
The story of how the people of Asaba in Nigeria try to make their history heard is discussed in one of the chapters of this book, which contains theoretical as well as case-study contributions. The common denominator for these theoretical and empirical explorations is to demonstrate how ‘living memory’ work can be crucial for citizens to move forward as plural collectives (or counter collectives) and create or revitalize publics that engage in social justice debates and change processes.

Malmö Folkets park and public memory
In relation to the Living Archives project, the final chapter explores a recent attempt to archive, and make publicly visible on the Internet, a productive historical era of popular folk-song writing in the city of Malmö. While introducing a local cultural association’s now over 500 song lyrics archive (Project Malmö Folk Song), the chapter concentrates on an analysis of a selection of songs from the archive and their portrayal of one of the oldest public parks in the world, Folkets Park (People’s Park) in Malmö. It questions how the park is represented aphoto 9s a place for different forms of public memory and citizen activity, socially and politically. The chapter also engages with the project’s various means of preserving and revitalizing a musical heritage as a ‘living archive’.

Memory on Trial: Media, Citizenship and Social Justice. Edited by Anders Høg Hansen, Oscar Hemer, and Thomas Tufte. Published by Lit Verlag, 2015.

This post uses material from an earlier Living Archives post with the permission of the author.

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