Memory Laws: Criminalizing Historical Narrative

Friday, October 27, 2017 1:30 PM - Sat , October 28, 2017 4:30 PM

Since the 1980s, interest in politically and legally shaping public memory regarding the Holocaust and other crimes perpetrated during the Second World War has been evident in a wide variety of arenas. One manifestation of the trend has been the increasing demand for the right to truth, which is purportedly a precondition to conflict resolution and policies of redress. At the same time, however, there is an increased recognition of the propensity for conflicting narratives about the past, particularly instrumentalized narratives about group identity and violent pasts, to escalate hostilities among nations, ethnicities and/or religions. These hostilities, anchored as they are in the collective memory and history of conflict, have become subject to extensive legislation, with the criminalization of statements about history and violent pasts becoming more commonplace.

This workshop will explore narratives that engage the memory of past violence in contemporary policies and the politics surrounding the legislation of historical memory. Given the central role that the Holocaust and other mass atrocities have played with regard to human rights concepts today, the memory laws that address these topics, as well as the role of history in conflict resolution, are also of interest. Finally, the workshop will pay particular attention to censorship and punitive measures that aim to constrain counter-narratives to established national identities and to freedom of expression. Speakers include Muge Gocek, Jan Gross, Henry Rousso, and Nikolay Koposov.

The workshop program is available at:

Friday, October 27th, 1:30 - 5:45pm International Affairs Building, Room 1219
Saturday, October 28th, 9:00am - 5:00pm Heyman Center for the Humanities, East Campus