Present Pasts-Global Mem Pol
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Division: University-wide Programs
Department: Global Studies
Course Number: UGLB 3512
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
The past is both a resource for and the subject of political struggles. Attempts to do justice to the past and to create commonly shared narratives of past events are at the heart of politics. Memory politics was part of the agenda of building the nation-state. From the 19th century on , historians busied themselves writing stories of the travails and triumphs of their nation, while at the same time states created rituals and monuments celebrating largely imaginary pasts (Hobsbawm called this ‘the invention of tradition’). The creation of memory was the conscious policy of almost all states. A common historical narrative was not merely an instrument of social control; it was also a source of solidarity and legitimacy. The nation-state remains an important arena for memory politics. However, in the globalized world of the 21st century, new memory dynamics are coming into play. Diasporic communities maintain the memories of their past homeland, whilst emerging transnational bodies such as the European Union attempt to discover or create memories, appropriate to new political agendas. At the same time, globalized media turn certain events (9/11, the assassination of JFK, the invasion of IRaw) into near universal memories. This course will begin with an introduction to the key theoretical debates. It will then trace these transnational processes from post-war Europe, through the Cold War to the ‘memory boom’ of the 90s with its focus on transitional justice, and finally to current debates on human rights, extradition, and reaparations. We will also look at specific memory debates pertaining to New York (e.g. the WTC memorial) and how these are embedded in transnational processes. How do all of these developments challenge the earlier symbiosis between memory and the nation-state? How does the politics of memory contribute to notions of international justice and human rights? How does an emerging common symbolism link polities across the globe? (Students will be encouraged to undertake an independent research project on the politics of memory.)
Open to Undergraduate students.