(Re)thinking Countermonuments: The Evolution of "Memory against itself" (Leeds/Online)
Online colloquium (21-22. June 2022) on the subject of countermonuments, exploring questions of definition, intention, form, aesthetics, evolution and reception.
School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds UK (Professor Frank Finlay: Dean: Cultural Engagement and Director, Cultural Institute University of Leeds UK Germanic Editor, The Modern Language Review)
(Re)thinking Countermonuments: The Evolution of "Memory against itself"
When we think of the term countermonuments, we recall the seminal article by James E. Young of 1992, in which this term was theoretically elaborated and applied to a new kind of monument in Germany (“The Counter-Monument: Memory against Itself in Germany Today“, Critical Inquiry 18 (1992), 267-296). This novel memorial approach set out to fundamentally question the precepts underlying traditional monuments. It was an approach informed by the sense that the celebratory, nationalistic cast of most pre-1945 memorials in Germany conveyed a message that stood in stark contrast to the destructiveness of that country’s role in the Second World War and the Holocaust. Countermonuments were designed to encourage a critical and self-critical response to the past, often using an aesthetics of absence, transience, even invisibility to challenge the overwhelming presence and seeming immutability of older forms. While the earliest countermonuments were created in Germany in the 1980s, countermonuments can now be found all over the world. The current conference arises from the awareness that there is a need to map out, further theorise and categorise the forms, aesthetics, functions and effects of countermonuments in a global context. What counts as a countermonument? Is this an elastic term, or should it be more restrictively applied?
We invite proposals for papers/presentations which might explore one or more of the following themes:
- Countermonuments in relation to a particular historical event or period;
- The relationship between countermonuments and the monuments, traditions, ideas and assumptions to which they run counter;
- The transformation of existing monuments into countermonuments, by whatever means (e.g. graffiti, the projection of images, performance art, reenactment at the site of the monument);
- The relationship between countermonuments and broader trends of memorial or countermemorial activism;
- The role of the state, NGOs and civil society in the proposing, discussion, planning and realisation of countermonuments;
- Virtual countermonuments, and/or the relationship between physical and virtual countermonuments;
- National and/or transnational debates around countermonuments and their significance for the way a past or pasts are seen and evaluated;
- The function of (often temporary) countermonuments in the formation and articulation of protest against politics and memory politics;
- Countermonuments in local, regional, national or transnational perspective;
- The forms and aesthetics of countermonuments;
- The importance of textuality, intertextuality, visuality and sound in countermonuments;
- Countermonuments as hybrid forms (e.g. as archive);
- Issues of definition and demarcation (what can be considered a countermonument, e.g. are there also literary or musical countermonuments?);
- The reception of countermonuments in works of art, literature and music (intertextuality);
- Countermonuments as one of several approaches to dealing with a difficult past (as contrasted with iconoclasm, removal, destruction).
- The effect and reception of countermonuments in the public sphere.
We welcome contributions by scholars as well as professionals working with the issues of countermonuments from across a range of disciplines and national and international perspectives.
In keeping with the spirit of a colloquium and our desire to maximise the opportunity for discussion and debate, the format will be for short papers/presentations (20 minutes) followed by up to 20 minutes Q&A.
If you are interested in taking part, please email an abstract of your talk (300 words) together with a brief academic biography (100 words) to:
firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com
Submission Deadline: 14th, March 2022
Professor Bill Niven (Nottingham Trent University) Professor Frank Finlay (University of Leeds)