Memory at the Crossroads of the Political Present: The Question of Justice

April 10-12, 2019
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Centro Cultural de la Memoria Haroldo Conti

In this international conference we propose to address the problem of memory from a critical perspective across different geopolitical contexts: post-dictatorial, post-colonial, post-war and civil conflict, and with respect to ongoing forms of discrimination and state violence. How, we ask, do differing contexts set the stage for various political formulations of memory? We take as our point of departure the articulation among truth, justice, and human rights as it bears upon a politics of the state and responds to the insistent demand to provide an ethical safeguard against the erasure of the violent past and to resist the neoliberal condensation of a time void of historicity and morality.

This occasion for shared reflection will strive to examine the different aesthetics and politics of remembrance, distinguishing, on the one hand, those which, in the name of reconciliation, suture the conflicted character of unfulfilled memory and those which, on the other, focus on insubordinate scenes— theoretical, poetic, and aesthetic—that track the convulsions of the past as well as the non-integrated fragments of residual memory. We seek to develop a critique of memory with the power to de-center the monumental and totalizing narratives of the past and to expose the latent promise of their fractures. The past persists in the present not only as traumatic imprint but also as an active demand for justice and reparation. The aim of critical memory studies is to safeguard the endurance of the past in all that has been achieved—the archives, the centers, the social movements and activism, the campaigns for public awareness—in the aftermath of violence. These achievements provide guiding principles for the expansion of the field of human rights into contemporary struggles for emancipation.

At stake is the task of expanding the contours of democracy, taking into account the effects of neoliberalism on subjectivities and memory—social precarity as well as ideologies of risk, insecurity, and self entrepreneurship. This critical approach to memory requires taking up debates concerning the state and the public sphere, the transformations of the university and the reconfiguration of current intellectual concerns in relation to new political constellations. This project in critical memory will also take up the critical and performative dimensions of art, the new arrangements by which subjectivity and gender are deconstructed and re-invented, as well as those issues mobilizing women’s collectives and the multiple activisms of sexual dissidence.

If all memory is embodied in the present and leaves its mark on our time, a time of great uncertainty, the greatest challenge is perhaps to think together the singularity and proximity of dissimilar experiences, a precondition for imagining any possible future of memory and of critique.



Leonor Arfuch
University of Buenos Aires

Natalia Brizuela
University of California, Berkeley

Gisela Catanzaro
National Council of Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina (CONICET)
University of Buenos Aires

Nelly Richard
Cultural Critic, Chile

Leticia Sabsay
London School of Economics