Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


31 October 2023
Utrecht University

Urban Politics of Memory and Heritage

A report of the workshop is available here:

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the City as an Agent in Historical Culture.

1-Day Workshop at Utrecht University

31 October 2023, Drift 21, room 005

This workshop aims to bring together three overlapping networks in the Faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University to discuss an important theme in the politics of heritage and memory. More than half of humanity today lives in urban areas, while we experience great contestation over the meaning of history, memory, and heritage in the local arena. Yet, in studies on the politics of the past the city remains a stage rather than an agent. Scholarship has traditionally focused on the nation-state as a key agent and on cities as palimpsests where such politics play out. Despite the participatory turn in Memory Studies and the booming memory activism we have witnessed in cities around the world as well as the growing focus on the plurality of heritage practices and experiences within Critical Heritage Studies – the diverse levels of actors and complex entanglements of these different actors in various kinds of cities are yet to be explored comparatively across time and space. Members of three organisations at UU, that is, the well-established Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies, the Heritage and Public History Lab at the Department for History and Art History, and the newly formed PoP Group at the Political History section have started discussing this problem. Cities are not only useful arenas in which historical cultures are reflected, the social groups and political organisations of cities, as well as the urban environment itself need to be considered as specific agents in urban identity, memory, and heritage politics where historical cultures are permanently constructed and negotiated. The aim of this workshop is to bring together UU scholars of diverse backgrounds to both brainstorm about this broader topic and to systematically discuss specific aspects of it.


9.00-9.30        Coffee

9.30-9.45        Introduction

Julie Deschepper, Susanne Knittel, and Christian Wicke

9.45-11.15      Research Pitches

11.15-11.30    Coffee break (b.y.o)

11.30-12.15    Forum 1: Urban Institutions and the Politics of the Past

Chairs: Ann Rigney and Ido de Haan

12.15-13.00    Lunch

13.00-13.45    Forum 2: Cities as Stages and Spaces in the Politics of the Past

Chairs: Enno Maessen and Frank Sterkenburgh

13.45-14.30    Forum 3: Memory Politics and the Urban Environment in the Anthropocene Chairs: Susanne Knittel and Liesbeth van de Grift

14.30-14.45    Coffee break (b.y.o)

14.45-15.30    Forum 4: Cities and Post-Colonial Memory Politics in the Age of Apology

Chairs: René Koekkoek and Britta Schilling

15.30-16.15    Forum 5: Remembering Structural Transformations in Urban Areas

Chairs: Gertjan Plets and Christian Wicke

16.15-17.00    Final discussion: Future Avenues for Collaboration and CEL

Chairs: Julie Deschepper and James Kennedy