21 - 23 October 2009

Memory Politics: Education, Memorials and Mass Media

Vortragsreihe der Imgard Coninx Stiftung und des WZB im Rahmen der Berlin Round Tables on Transnationality

Coming to terms with a painful past is crucial for the social reconstruction of societies emerging from armed conflict or totalitarian rule and facing a legacy of large-scale atrocities against humanity. Yet, memory is a double-edged sword: It can either lead to mutual understanding that overcomes existing ethnic, religious or social cleavages and thereby fosters sustainable peace, or it can perpetuate cleavages and thereby harden existing tensions and re-open new conflicts.

The last years have seen an unprecedented surge in memory politics in national, international and global contexts. The legacies of colonialism, wars and genocides became the focus of fierce national and international debates. National narratives in post-communist as well as in other states have been shifted and newly construed. New memorials and museums are still being errected all over the world. Textbooks, school curricula, and mass media are incorporating revised and sometimes completely changed versions of history.

As part of a series of conferences and workshops organized under the heading “I Have a Dream: Political Culture in Divided Societies,” the Eleventh Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality seek to assess how the teaching of history, public commemoration projects, media and public discourse affect contemporary reconciliation and identity formation processes within and between nation states.

Daniel Libeskind is an internationally acclaimed architect and urban designer. He is well known for introducing a new critical discourse into architecture and for his multidisciplinary approach. In 1989, he founded the Studio Daniel Libeskind together with his wife Nina. Among his architectural accomplishments are the Felix Nussbaum Museum Osnabrück, the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, and the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In February 2003, he won the World Trade Center design competition. Recent publication of and on Daniel Libeskind include his autobiography „Breaking Ground (2004) and „Counterpoint. Daniel Libeskind“ (2009).

Albie Sachs is Justice at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. As an attorney and human rights activist he fought against the Apartheid regime and served as an adviser to the ANC. After being seized by the police and placed in solitary confinement for his work in the freedom movement in Apartheid South Africa, Albie Sachs went into exile in England and Mozambique. In 1988, he lost his arm and his sight in one eye when a bomb was placed in his car by South African security agents. After the bombing, he devoted himself to a new democratic constitution and justice system for South Africa. He most recently published his autobiography “The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law” (2009).

Karl Schlögel is Professor of Eastern European History at European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder). He has written more than a dozen books on Central and Eastern European history, among them “Die Mitte liegt ostwärts” (1986/2002), “Im Raume lesen wir die Zeit” (2003), and most recently “Terror und Traum: Moskau 1937” (2008). In his work he aims to revitalize the hermeneutic approach to history, emphasizing the unity of space/locality, time and events for memory and historiography. He received the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding in 2009. Among his publications in the English language is “Moscow” (2005).