Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


Memory after Humanism A special issue of Parallax 23.4 (2017), edited by Kári Driscoll and Susanne C. Knittel

In recent years, a number of publications devoted to the ‘future of memory’ have charted the potentials and limitations of the field of memory studies as it enters the Twenty-First Century. The field has seen a trajectory from ‘sites’ to ‘dynamics’ of memory, from national to transnational and ‘multidirectional’, from collective to cultural to transcultural memory. A series of critiques have shaken some of the field’s foundations, for example the universalization of victimhood, or the (Western-centered) concept of trauma. The ‘posthumanist turn’ in the humanities and social sciences has so far not made a significant impact on the field, however. This is no doubt due to the fact that, perhaps more so than any other recent field, memory studies has been fundamentally committed to a liberal humanist conception of the subject. Emerging as it did in response to the dehumanizing experience of WWII and the Holocaust, it is perhaps not surprising that the question “if this is a man” (Primo Levi) should have been a crucial concern for the field. It was important that this question be answered in the affirmative. But this also meant that the identity and constitution of the human could not at the same time be called into question. In light of poststructuralist and posthumanist critiques of the subject, however, it has become clear that the answer to this question is much more radically indeterminable. How can this indeterminability be made productive for a critical re-evaluation of the field of memory studies? What would a posthumanist memory studies look like? Who or what is the subject, and who or what is the object, of memory studies? What, in short, is memory studies the study of? In order to explore these and related questions, the contributions to this special issue bring memory studies into conversation with the fields of posthumanism, disability studies, animal studies, ecocriticism, new materialism, feminism, and critical race studies. The issue features a combination of full-length essays and short responses or ‘position papers’ by leading scholars and early career academics in these diverse fields.

The introduction as well as several of the contributions have been published open access, see: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tpar20/23/4