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IDSEMUG 1980 - Collective Memory of Atrocity and Injustice

In the aftermath of the Holocaust Primo Levi wrote, “Never forget that this has happened.” Levi’s imperative raises important questions about the role of memory and forgetting in the politics of atrocity and systemic injustice. What is the role of the past in the present? What is collective memory and how does it figure into contemporary political struggles? What gets forgotten in the collective memory and why? Is historical amnesia always a bad thing? How might collective memory serve to address systemic injustices and historical conflicts that persist to this day? We will pursue such questions by examining specific genres and forms of collective memory that have contributed to understandings of atrocity and injustice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in particular. We will consider how memorials, tribunals, reenactments, film, environmental ecology, and reparations movements have shaped, challenged, and revised the contemporary politics of remembering and forgetting. In addition to informal response papers, students will write 3 formal essays over the course of the semester. Readings may include works by Maurice Halbwachs, Maya Lin, Joshua Oppenheimer, Fred Wilcox, and Janna Thompson. Class Notes: This course may be combined with a 2-unit, competitive internship arranged by Gallatin. Internship information will be forthcoming.
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