Future Past: Memory and Imaginal Politics in Conflicts and for Conflicts

Key note speaker: Professor Andrea Pető
Central European University
Amsterdam, 14th & 15th July 2020

“We ceased fighting today and I have seen the last shot fired… No more danger, no more wars and no more mud and misery” he spoke of the future; the future that would be without dangers, wars, mud and misery.

When William Murray, Lieutenant Colonel in the Western Fronts (1914-1919) wrote the above quote he inscribed the future within possibilities that his present offered to him. His future and present were entangled through the war that it was becoming his past.

Future, present and past don’t stand by themselves anymore when an armed conflict occurs or an ideological force interrupts the political life of a society. The fury of conflict or the chaos of revolution and any radical change unstructure the temporal chronology and consequently, future, present and past fall entangled into each other. Especially, a past that it has witnessed armed conflicts, it swallows future and fills it with memories, nostalgia, narratives and images to produce a future past.

A future past offers a vision for the time-yet-to-come; a vision for a future speculated and awaited. This vision is crafted and guided by memories, histories and narratives of past and they accordingly shape future to act as the mirror of past. Such a future shapes and configures social imaginaries, individual desires and national politics located in a present. The configuration of imaginaries, desires and politics occur through a set of ideologies, ideas and value systems that were already fixed and prescribed in past.

A future past, as the entanglement of past and future, is expressed through public memories and collective commemorations which are filled by sociocultural symbols and signifiers. These symbols and signifiers are neither fully constructed by political and cultural authorities (states, supranational institution, parastatal organizations and intelligentsia) nor completely produced organically in everyday social interactions. They emerge inbetween imaginaries prescribed by authorities, institutionalized heritage politics and imaginations.

Therefore, by following what Chiara Bottici (2014) called ‘imaginal’, we invite academics and curious minds to move beyond ‘social imaginaries’ (Tylor 2003) and imaginations of ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 1983) to locate the imaginal politics which administers future past, networks of power and its mnemonic expressions.

The notion of imaginal permits us to distinguish between imagination as a faculty of individuals and imaginary that is suggested as a mode of perpetuation of visual representations, depictions and contents. We stress on imaginal politics to highlight interlinked relationships between production, perpetuation and appropriation of memories
and histories.

We are interested in debates and presentations on how future past is produced by authorities, state and propaganda machinery and accordingly, how it is received and appropriated by mnemonic communities and individuals. Therefore, we propose two central
questions of the conference: first, what are materials (visual or otherwise), spaces and narratives (verbal or otherwise) that facilitate the imaginal politics of future past in conflicts and second, how a future past is used for conflicts.

We invite papers that trace memory and commemoration within imaginal politics to highlight how future past emerges, circulates and mobilizes. The conference focuses on future past under authoritarian regimes across the world however, the papers with focus on the Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus are given priority. The programme will include discussion panels focusing on the following areas:

  • – State/organizational/institutional sponsored propaganda,
  • – media framing (print, broadcast and internet),
  • – photography and graphic design,
  • – commemorative events and memorial sites,
  • – state/institution sponsored publications and memoirs.

Please submit an abstract, not exceeding 500 words by 15th April 2020 along 100 words bionote to Younes Saramifar via

The conference invites social scientists, experienced practitioners, scholars and researcher as well as postgraduate students who are in advance stages of their PhDs.

Bursary: a very limited bursary is available for emerging scholars from universities in the global south and postgraduate students. This bursary will be given on competitive bases and we encourage participants to seek other financial resources. Please, mention in your abstract if you are interested to be considered for the bursary.