SAS Banner
SAS Mobile Banner


Contested Memories and the Contours of the Past

An Interdisciplinary Conference
Open to faculty and graduate students
May 12-14, 2014

pdf Conference Brochure (5.25 MB)

ghetto-poland-200pxCollective memory has historically been contested terrain where tensions and conflicts emerge in constructing and reinterpreting the past.  Contestations often emerge in the aftermath of war, violence, and genocide - resulting in conflicts between the state and various opposition groups, including survivors, artists, and intellectuals. These divergent narratives also shape the dynamics between individuals and collectives, private and public memories, and intergenerational transmission of memory. Indeed, any process of remembering produces selective commemorations, silences and gaps, where traces of memory may exist in the shadows or fall into oblivion, revealing the complexity of shaping the contours of the past.

This conference is the culmination of a year-long interdisciplinary research seminar during the 2013-2014 year, devoted to exploring "Contested Memories and the Politics of Change" from a comparative, cross-cultural perspective.  It will address central issues in memory studies including national, familial, and intergenerational memories; commemorative struggles in the wake of trauma; witnessing and silences; embodied and visual memories; contested sites and conflicting narratives; and the relationship between collective memory and transitional justice. Scholars will examine these issues from a range of disciplinary perspectives utilizing case studies from diverse geographical regions.

Support for this conference has been provided by The Henry Schwartzman Endowed Faculty Seminar Fund, and the Leon and Toby Cooperman Fund.

Cosponsored by the GAIA Centers’ 2013-2015 Biennial Theme: Global Health!



Conference Schedule

Monday, May 12, 2014
1:00 pm Registration and Lunch
2:00 pm Welcome and Greetings
Yael Zerubavel
, Director, Bildner Center
James Masschaele
, Acting Executive Vice Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers
2:15 pm Keynote Lecture
Jeffrey Olick, University of Virginia, Sociology
Systems of Memory: Beyond the Matryoshka Doll
3:30 pm Break
3:45-5:30 pm

Contested Narratives and Nation-Building
Chair: Rudolph M. Bell, Rutgers, History

Matt Matsuda, Rutgers, History
Genealogies, Genetics, and recovered Pasts in the Pacific Context

Jonathan Gribetz, Rutgers, Jewish Studies and History
The Palestinian memory of Jewish Religious Reform

Jan Kubik, Rutgers, Political Science
Contested Memories of the Fall of Communism and Post-Communist Nation-Building

6:00-7:00 pm Dinner
7:30 pm
ghetto in Poland

Evening Program

Genevieve Zubrzycki, University of Michigan, Sociology
Jewish Revival in Contemporary Poland

Since the fall of Communism, Poland’s small Jewish communities have undergone a significant revival, a process occurring in tandem with non-Jewish Poles’ soul searching about their role in the Holocaust and Poland’s Jewish past. This interest is visible in the mushrooming of Festivals of Jewish culture throughout Poland, the renewed popularity of klezmer music, the dramatic proliferation of Judaica bookstores and Jewish restaurants, the governmental sponsorship of new museums and memorials, the emergence of Jewish studies programs, and the public centrality of artists’ and intellectuals’ engagements with Poland’s Jewish past and Polish-Jewish relations more broadly. What does Poland’s Jewish renaissance teach us about the politics of memory and identity formation, and the relationship between national identity and religion more broadly? Zubrzycki shows how the revival of Jewish culture in Poland is part of broader process of redefinition of Polish national identity and the building of pluralism in contemporary Poland.

The Raoul Wallenberg Annual Program
Supported by the Leon and Toby Cooperman Fund

This lecture is open to the public.
Location: Douglass Campus Center
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
8:15 am Breakfast
9:00-10:45 am

Mnemonic Battles: Trauma and After
Chair: Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, Rutgers, Anthropology

Thomas DeGloma, CUNY, Hunter College, Sociology
The Strategies and Tactics of Mnemonic Battle: Patterns in the Dynamics of Conflict Over the Past

Paul Schalow, Rutgers, Asian Languages and Cultures
Victimhood's Meaning and Materiality: Ruins as Memorial Sites in East Asia

Laura Cohen, Rutgers, Global Affairs
Memorial Sites as Centers for Public Memory, Space, and Healing: The Case for the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center and Cemetery to the Victims of the 1995 Genocide

10:45 am Break
11:00 am-12:45

Mapping Memory in Contested Sites
Chair: Michael Curry, UCLA, Geography

Natasha Zaretsky, Rutgers, Bildner Center, Aresty Visiting Scholar
Sites, Spaces, and Borders: The Politics of Body and Time in Democratic Argentina

Anita Bakshi, Rutgers, Center for Cultural Analysis
The Politics of Heritage: Cityscape and Nationalism

Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers, Jewish Studies and History
History and Space Metaphors: Contested Memories in Israeli Popular Culture
1:00-2:00 pm Lunch
2:00-3:45 pm

The Predicament of Intimate Memories
Chair: Alisse Waterston, CUNY, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Anthropology

Ziva Galili, Rutgers, History
Inter-generational Reflections on Subject, Collective and Memory

Galit Hasan-Rokem, Hebrew University, Folklore; Rutgers, Bildner Visiting Scholar
A Contestable Auto-ethnography of a Childhood on the Coast of the Baltic: Between the Litvaks and the Pollacks

Ethel Brooks, Rutgers, Women’s & Gender Studies and Sociology
Fraught Intimacies: Entwined Histories of the (post) Holocaust
3:45 pm Break
4:00 pm Visual Memories
Chair: Freddie Rokem, Tel Aviv University, Theatre Arts

Carol Zemel, York University, Art History; Rutgers, Bildner Visiting Scholar
Time Between Time: Early Visual Accounts/Narratives of the Shoah

Ken Aptekar, Independent Artist
“Jesus Christ is next door!” Progress Report on NACHBARN: an Exhibition by Ken Aptekar in Lubeck, Germany

Shelley Salamensky, UCLA/University of Louisville, Performance Studies/Humanities
“Jewface” and “Jewfaçade”: Cultural Re-enactment and Contested Memory in Poland, Spain, and Asian Russia
6:00 pm Dinner
7:30 pm

Noah stamp

Evening Program

Mapping Ararat: Remembering an Imaginary Jewish Homeland
Melissa Shiff, University of Toronto, Art, and Louis Kaplan, University of Toronto, Art History

What if an autonomous Jewish homeland had been founded in 1825 on the Canadian-U.S. border?  Mapping Ararat stages an historical fiction using digital multimedia and geo-locational software including augmented reality in order to image and imagine Mordecai Noah's unrealized dream to transform Grand Island, New York in Ararat, a city of refuge for the Jews.  Through the creation of vernacular cultural artifacts and the staging of an on-site augmented reality walking tour, the project playfully summons the cultural memory of an imaginary Jewish homeland.   

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

8:15 am Breakfast
9:00-10:45 am Witnessing and Silences
Chair: Judith Gerson, Rutgers, Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies

Belinda Davis, Rutgers, History
Speaking Out, Holding Back:  Memory and the Mouth among West German Activists

Edna Lomsky-Feder, Hebrew University, Sociology & Anthropology, and Education
Orna Sasson-Levy, Bar Ilan University, Sociology & Anthropology
Testimony from a Gendered Perspective: Women Breaking the Silence as a Case Study

Hillel Cohen, Hebrew University, Middle Eastern Studies; New York University, Israel Studies
Massacres and Lynchings in 1929 Palestine: Who Remembers What and Why
10:45 am Break
11:00 am-12:45 pm Constructing Narratives of History and Memory
Chair: Alex Hinton, Rutgers Newark, Anthropology

Paul Hanebrink, Rutgers, History and Jewish Studies
The Problem of Jewish “Visibility” in the Central European Revolutions of 1919

Seth Anziska, Columbia University, History
Revisiting the 1982 Lebanon War: History, Memory and the Making of Akram Zaatari’s Letter to a Refusing Pilot

Robin Wagner-Pacifici, The New School, Sociology
Reconfiguring Memory Studies as Event Studies

1:00-2:00 pm Lunch
2:00-3:15 pm Roundtable: Memories and the Contours of the Past
Michael Levine, Rutgers, German and Comparative Literature
Jeffrey Olick, University of Virginia, Sociology
Robin Wagner-Pacifici, The New School, Sociology
Eviatar Zerubavel, Rutgers, Sociology



For more information, see the pdf conference brochure (5.25 MB) .
To register, complete the
pdf registration form (19 KB) .

Open to faculty and graduate students only.

University Inn and Conference Center
178 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: 732-932-9144

Monday evening, May 12 at 7:30 pm
Trayes Hall, Douglass Campus Center, Rutgers University
100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Directions - Click here

Rutgers University is easily accessible by NJ Transit trains.
Free parking is available.

The conference is free and pre-registration recommended.  
Complete conference information and registration forms are available on the website
Meals must be reserved and paid for by April 18.

Jodi Marcou, Conference Coordinator
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 848-932-4165

Support for this conference has been provided by Rutgers GAIA Centers,
the Henry Schwartzman Endowed Faculty Seminar Fund, and the Leon and Toby Cooperman Fund.

Academic Conferences

Testimonies, Personal Narratives, and Alternative Tellings
An Interdisciplinary Conference
March 27–28, 2011 at Rutgers University
Open to faculty and graduate students only
Support for the conference was provided by Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences

Scholars from a wide range of disciplines explored the diversity of testimonial narratives and the broader, more complex understanding of “witnessing” in the post-Holocaust era. Contemporary discourse about the role of witnessing has developed, to a large extent, in response to the Holocaust but attention to the role of testimonies has expanded to other events involving genocide, the violation of human rights, and extreme forms of violence. Scholars will examine the emergence of witnessing as a key contemporary mnemonic practice, the various forms that testimonies may take as they shift from private to public domains, and their multiple, and at times divergent, interpretations within various academic discourses.

See conference brochure

USC Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive

The conference was held in conjunction with Rutgers University’s new access to the Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA). The VHA houses 52,000 testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. These interviews, which were filmed in 56 countries and were conducted in 32 languages, include discussions of the interviewees’ lives before, during, and after World War II.  The archive can be accessed from computers on any of Rutgers campuses and is supported by the Rutgers University libraries. For further information, go to

Contact Us

Bildner Center
12 College Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
P (848) 932-2033
E This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sign up for Bildner Center
Email List