Commemoration, Memory, Archive

Investigating commemorative and memorial uses of personal, non-professional images in the digital age in the Global South

For more details visit Photomemory

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex

4th and 5th September 2018

The commemorative and memorial use of personal, private images in the context of large-scale violence and death has a long history. Private images have been continually employed to access worlds that no longer exist, to de-anonymize, individualize or humanize victims, to identify murderers and the murdered, to evidence contested events and to prove the existence of life before death. They populate archives, memorials and museums, places of public protest and, increasingly, myriad regions of the internet.

The private photographic archive has been an important part of what Paul Williams calls the “global rush to commemorate” (2007), starting, arguably, with the attempts to memorialize the Holocaust.

Yet in this movement from the private to public, from intimacy to historical significance, private images undergo transitions (including for example displacement, re-contextualization and politicization) in a manner that raises critical challenges for both commemorative practices and those to whom the images initially belonged. To what extent, as some scholars have argued, does this use of private images become part of a trend to globalize and homogenize commemoration, such that local contexts are overwritten?  Similarly, where are issues of access, copyright and meaning addressed, particularly with the rise of the digital, and state-controlled, centralized memory-making?

This two-day symposium at the University of Sussex aims to explore real and perceived changes in the relationship(s) between private still images and the memorialization and commemoration of mass violence – including trauma – with a particular focus on practices in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South and Central America in the digital age. Our latter emphasis on the digital is in response to the ways digital and social media are now arguably dominant in both personal and institutional commemoration, affecting all stages of image curation from archiving and scanning to display. As part of Sussex’s interdisciplinary ethos, we are particularly interested in exploring intersections between theory and practice and invite scholarly and practice contributions that speak to a range of themes as listed below.

We will be joined by:

  • Members of the Rwanda Genocide Archive in Kigali andArchivo Provincial de la Memoria in Córdoba, Argentina who will discuss their respective commemorative and activist uses of private images.
  • Keynote Speakers include: Professor Ludmila da Silva Catela (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba Museum of Anthropology, Archivo Provincialde la Memoria); Claver Irakoze (Aegis Trust/Rwanda Genocide Archive in Kigali); and others TBC.
  • Members of UK institutions concerned with memorializing conflict and violence.
  • A screening of The Faces We Lost (2017) followed by a Q&A with the director.

For more details of how to participate please visit the Photomemory Webpage