18 January 2011

Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents

Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents

When: 16-17 September 2011
Where: University of Bristol, UK
Deadline for submission: 30 March 2011

Papers are invited for an interdisciplinary and international symposium entitled ‘Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents’, to be held in September 2011 at the University of Bristol (UK).

It is twenty years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, the impact of the state socialist past can still be felt in those countries previously under Soviet influence or control. In recent years, the legacy of socialist dictatorship and its impact on the post-socialist present has received considerable attention in a variety of disciplines: amongst others, cultural, literary, media and museum studies, history, anthropology and political science. The boom in interest in (individual, cultural, social and collective) memory has seen the development of a range of theoretical and methodological tools with which we can approach the impact of national history or histories on politics, society and culture. Nonetheless, the majority of this work has taken place in isolation, within one disciplinary area or focusing on a single geographical location.

Working from a comparative approach that crosses both disciplinary and geographical borders, this symposium asks for a (re)evaluation of the processes of coming to terms with state socialist pasts in post-socialist contexts. We aim to examine the impact of memories of dictatorship on policy-making, social interactions and the production of cultural artefacts (e.g., literature, film, museums and memorials) and to initiate a dialogue between researchers working in very different fields.

The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. It was built
between 1952 and 1955 and it was a gift of the Soviet people
to the Polish nation offered by Stalin.
© Lucas Bietti 2009

What new insights can be gained by bringing together different disciplinary perspectives? What interconnections can be seen between the cultural, social and political spheres? What similarities can be seen in the processes of dealing with the state socialist past in different post-socialist countries? What features of this process are specific to a particular national context?

Possible themes might include (but are not restricted to):
• Memory and democratic policy-making
• Memory and the construction of national identity
• Remembering popular culture and the everyday
• Trauma and memory
• Public history and memory
• Memory in literature and film
• Memory and the archive
• Counter-memories
• Interactions between individual and collective memories

Professor Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford) will give the keynote address.

Papers are invited which focus on one or more geographical regions with a state socialist past: including (but not restricted to) the GDR, Eastern Europe and countries formerly part of the Soviet Union. We would particularly welcome papers with an interdisciplinary approach.

The language of the conference will be English. Publication of selected papers is envisaged. Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to rememberingdictatorship@gmail.com by 30 March 2011. For other enquiries or further details, please contact Sara Jones (Sara.Jones@bris.ac.uk).

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