WORKSHOP: MEMORY, MIGRATION, AND MATERIALITY
The New School, May 1-3, 2014
Thursday MAY 1
Welcome remarks and Introduction
Location: Hirshon Suite
Location: 6 E 16th St, 11th Floor (room 1103, Wolff)
Citizens of Memory: Citizenship Between Holocaust Remembrance and Transnational Migration
Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz
In establishing itself as the successor to National Socialism, West Germany faced a paradigmatic dilemma of political transition: how to situate itself in relation to the state-sponsored crimes of the immediate past. Over the course of several decades, and in the face of conflict and controversy, a public embrace of responsibility for the Holocaust came to play a key role in the definition of German national identity, even as private discourses continued to focus more on the fate of non-Jewish Germans than on the Shoah. Although it has only recently been remarked, the period in which this public consensus about the Nazi genocide evolved corresponds exactly to the years in which transnational labor migration transformed national demographics. In our lecture we pursue the entanglement of post-National Socialist and post-migrant histories in the Federal Republic and attempt to think through its significance for the politics of memory and citizenship. Building on our concept of “memory citizenship,” we make visible forms of exclusion and discipline as well as counter-hegemonic interventions at the intersection of memory and migration. We argue that transcultural migrant memories of genocide can help remake the German model of working through the past and move German, Turkish, and European memory cultures in a more radically democratic direction.
Introduction and Moderator: William Hirst
Followed by a Reception
Friday MAY 2
Location: 80 5th
Presentation 1 & 2 (10am-12pm): Remains and Traces Of Other Spaces (Of Memory)
If the range of movement of “illegal travelers” (cf. Khosravi 2010) is compromised by the “protracted possibility of being deported” (Peutz/DeGenova 2010: 14), which in turn favors conditions of invisibility, then the very ability of presenting oneself to others, of generating publicity and of putting memories together seems to be perpetually at risk for those who are forced to live between clandestine spaces. Or, rather, it seems as if the contemporary border regime, which extends across state borders and which is usually embodied as a diffuse, but intense fear (of being exposed) by those who cannot count on a residence permit, is involving a double question: Can one give an account of oneself and narrate one’s story in medias res, even if many things are taking place that – other than in Judith Butler’s account (2005: 39) –do not “make me and my story possible in language” (ibid.)? Can we possibly think of a “politics of memory” that is neither bound to given places nor to language, but thatrather displaces established “realms of memory” (cf. Nora 1996-1998)? In consideration of this double question, my paper is going to trace a few preliminary thoughts on scattered spaces of memory that have recently emerged at the margins of Lampedusa as one of Europe’s most spectacular frontiers (cf. Cuttitta 2012) and that are, perhaps, as spaces is the Museo delle Migrazioni di Lampedusa e Linosa, which in a certain sense acts as a counter-museum, that is, as a “museo diffuso” that bends hegemonic narratives about the (recent) past by blending in residues of people who have disappeared after their passage to Europe and by commemorating also the story of countless others who did not make it across the Mediterranean.
Exile & Materiality
Alexandra Galitzine-Loumpet and Alexis Nuselovici
The use of objects or images of objects in Lampedusa, as elsewhere, shows how artifacts tend to replace the body of migrants. As rests and traces, objects embody regimes of truth and value that migrants do not possess. Objects appear first as signs: overcoming the lack of human relationships, they provide a powerful vector of integration and dialogue, as Baudrillard previously argued (1968: 209). At the same time as being both remains and traces, they also have a “voice,” and acquire a status of witness, incriminating, or exonerating public policies and individual attitudes according to specific temporalities, contexts, and actors. The implications of that new status willbe examined here through a concept encompassing migration in a broader experience: exile.
Moderator and discussion leader: Ross Poole
Presentation 3 & 4 (1:30-3:30pm): Death at the Border; Forensics, Migrant Deaths, and Disappearances along the Mexico-US Corrido
Mercedes Doretti (presentation)
The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (AFAT), a non-governmental organization originally founded to identify the victims of the Argentine military dictatorship, is leading the Border Project to identify human remains of people thought to be migrants recovered in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. As 2013 drew to a close, DNA testing conducted by the AFAT Border Project had positively identified 59 persons and tentatively identified 20 others from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and Costa Rica. This presentation explains the context of migrant deaths and disappearances in this region; the mobilization of families and other civil society groups in relation to these issues; and the challenges related to the identification of remains including the creation of DNA databases linking the vast region from Central America to the United States.
Unidentified bodies, memory, and belonging at the US-Mexico border
Alexandra Délano and Ben Nienass
This paper addresses the intended and unintended politicization of bodies of undocumented migrants beyond their death, specifically of those who died while crossing the US-Mexican border. We start from the premise that borders are produced and legitimated through the symbolic practices surrounding them, and we examine the symbolic-material landscape in US border regions with regard to the unidentified dead bodies, their accompanying objects, and the graveyards where they are buried in California, Arizona, and Texas. Beyond recording and documenting the deaths in the border regions, activists have engaged in public events such as marches, projections, visualizations through crosses, and collective acts of mourning to publicize the issue of undocumented migrants dying in their attempt to cross the desert. We propose to view these practices as acts of memory citizenship, in the sense that they are performances of memory that question existing understandings of political belonging and collective responsibility. The politics behind those performances are inevitably representative in the sense that those who are marching see themselves as speaking for the dead. This, we claim, raises important questions about the relationship between public mourning and our political imaginaries and about the dead as subjects of justice.
Moderator and discussion leader: Yasemin Yildiz (TBC)
Coffee Break 3:30-4:15
Presentation 5 & 6 (4:15-6:15pm): Body Politics : Nameless bodies
“His (her) name should be erased,” is a sentence in the Bible used for the body of the enemy, as a way of expressing that his or her posterity should be condemned to disappear. The body as a weapon for Jihad raises many questions with regard to its burial. There is no testament from the Jihadi on the procedure or even the requirement of the burial of his “exploded” body. The dead body of a Jihadi is not officially at stake anywhere, neither in juridical nor in political terms. The same is true for its burial. This raises many questions with regard to the management of the pieces of the body, punishment, respect for the victims’ families, national and international public opinion, and international relations. Are these bodies ‘sites’ for attacked states upon which to assert their sovereignty? Or should states ignore the enemy’s body in the context of an illegitimate, non-territorial war in which there is no state, no nation, no society, no community, and not even a family that is glorified by the death of the Jihadi? My paper will focus on the symbolic and material meaning of the burial of suicide bombers with regard to the processes of nation-building and the drawing of community boundaries.
Names Without Bodies, Bodies Without Names: Memorializing Missing People
The paper examines practices of memorializing people who are missing after terrorist attacks, disappearances, or migration. The treatment of missingness and its memory exposes certain contested forms and practices of personhood specific to contemporary politics. The following three sites of memory arguably reflect contrasting political framings: first, a case where the event is seen as an attack on the state, and memorialization incorporates those missing into a heroic narrative of nationalism, revenge, and overcoming; second, an occasion where the state was implicated in the disappearances and has opposed memorialization; and third, a case where those who disappear are already missing, displaced from their established location and without documentation or recognition by the state. In this paper, I explore examples of each of these sites, and examine whether and how memorializing missing, disappeared or displaced people—names without bodies and bodies without names—might be distinct from memorials to the documented dead. What do such memorials tell us about the form of personhood that inhabits contemporary politics and how notions of personhood are challenged? Might memorials to missing people, and those doubly missing in particular, be locations for different forms of politics? How might we analyze the politics of memorializing missing people?
Moderator and discussion leader: Andreas Huyssen (TBC)
Dinner at Piadina restaurant (6:30-8:30pm) 57 W 10th St
Saturday MAY 3
Location: 66 W 12th
9am (Continental breakfast)
Presentation 7 & 8 (9:15-11:15am): Memory and the State
Settler Memory as an Architectonic of US Liberal Colonial Statism
In this paper, I argue that the American state functions through settler memory, and that this can and should be understood as an architectonic of memory. Settler memory is an active practice, not a reference to a dislocated past. Just as an individual cannot act ably without the function of memory, neither can the American liberal colonial state. The American effort to legitimate settlement, be it of those residing in the nation for many generations or of recent migrants, requires persistent articulation, especially as it concerns statist power that enforces Indigenous territorial dispossession and Indigenous people’s disempowerment. It is not a mere matter of political incorrectness that Indigenous names such as Apache, Comanche, Geronimo, and Black Hawk are deployed as markers of the expression of U.S. state power and militarism, be it in the naming of weaponry or missions that violate the sovereignty of states in order to kill the nation’s enemies. There is a fundamental connection articulated here between the deployment of violent U.S. power abroad and its utilization in the domestic realm. Similarly, I see a key production of American statism occurring through the settler memory of Abraham Lincoln and his actions during the U.S. Civil War. The year 2013 marked the 150thLincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation Act on January 1, 1863. Only six days prior, upon Lincoln’s approval, thirty-eight Dakota men were executed as enemies of the U.S. state, the largest legal mass execution in U.S. history. These two events are deeply related in their own time and in American settler memory: one exalts the nation and statist power, the other is productively disavowed. This paper’s analysis will move back and forth between the two focal points of examining the role of settler memory in the contemporary U.S. imperial state and in the production of Lincoln as a pivotal mnemonic device for legitimating American state power.
St, 5th Floor, room 510.
Political Asylum and Political Memories: Syrian Refugees’ Recollections of Flight in Germany
Recollections of asylum seekers are integral to the refugee status determination process. The extent of legal protection depends to a large degree on the memories conveyed to authorities. Thus, the institutional framework in which refugees seek protection shapes their official narratives and, I argue, their general memories of their flight. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees who arrived in Germany through different channels – as undocumented asylum seekers, through German embassies or through UNHCR humanitarian programs – I suggest that the grounds on which they receive protection according to their own perception form their recollections of flight. Refugees are selective with their memories, just as asylum procedures are with them. Asylum constructs political refugees’ memories of political belonging to Germany at the same time as refugees imagine in political memories their own sovereignty in relation to the sovereign they seek protection from.
Moderator and discussion leader: Michael Rothberg (TBC)
Lunchtime Break and Keynote Presentation (9) (11:15am-12:45pm)
Staging Migration – Staging the Nation. Imagining Community at Immigration Museums