FROM THE ART OF MEMORY TO MEMORY AND ART: Honoring Professor Vera L. Zolberg's Career

10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.


A one-day conference honoring Professor Vera L. Zolberg’s Career

April 28, 2012

As Pierre Bourdieu once quipped: “Sociology and art make an odd couple.”  The same may be said with respect to the juxtaposition of the arts and memory. As a sociologist of culture, Vera Zolberg has made these juxtapositions less strange. With this conference we examine the arts and the social construction of memory, in particular their appearance in public forms – performance sites, museums, monuments, memorials.

The arts of the 21st century are increasingly haptic as well as optic; tactile as well as visual, so that the spectacular and the performative play overlapping roles. In this context, how do we as social scientists, cultural critics, and humanists think about the arts, aesthetic institutions, and the artist as cultural producer and social actor? As we know, “curatorship” of collective memory is the result of dynamic processes of negotiation and contestation. Historians reveal that whereas much is expressed, a great deal is omitted – perhaps deliberately silenced.  Sociologists ask how memory institutions make the past present, how sites of memory reflect and reaffirm “imagined communities” and how the visual, tactile, textual and synesthetic contribute to our experience of spaces of memory.

Parallel to this, by now art, too, is much more than paintings on the wall or sonorities of conventional instruments. But where can boundaries be drawn, and who should do the drawing? Contemporary institutional and curatorial practices have converged in new ways to approach art and art audiences. Museums are no longer solely the spaces of quiet reflection for social elites, but places for participation and consumption of goods, both aesthetic and commercial. Visitors are expected not only to consume, or audiences to behave in the disciplined manner that two centuries under the watchful guardian or conductor required. Where music, dance, performance of all types contribute to the experience of museal spaces, what may we expect with the continuing trend towards interactivity, new media, and the digital in the decades to come?   

We invite papers that address these themes through such topics as the following:

Sociology and the Arts; Memorials, Museums, Monuments, Counter-monuments; Outsider Art; The Avant-Garde; Kitsch, Camp, and Nostalgia; The Postmodern Museum/Performance site

Abstracts should be submitted by email to by March 10, 2012, with “2012 ABSTRACT” in the subject line that includes the following: an abstract of no longer than 250 words with a tentative paper title and a short bio (max. 200 words) that includes institutional affiliation. Decisions will be made by late March 2012. For more information on the conference please send an email to

Note: This conference concludes a weekend of scholarship and conversation in the study of memory and culture. On April 26 – April 27, the New School Memory Group will host their Fifth Annual Memory Conference on the Arts of Memory. Participants are encouraged to attend both events. For more information on the Memory Conference



Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

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