Second Thoughts on the Memory Industry

About "Second Thoughts on the Memory Industry"


with Timothy Snyder, Philip Gourevitch, Ian Buruma, James Young, Art Spiegelman,
Francine Prose, Gilles Peress, Susan Meiselas, and others, and a new short opera,
“MEMORIAL CITY,” by Ben Katchor & Mark Mulcahy

10:45 AM - 9:30 PM

36 E 8th STREET, NYC

Free and Open to Public

On Saturday May 7, 2011 the Humanities Initiative and the New York Institute for the
Humanities at NYU will be convening a major all-day symposium, Second Thoughts
on the Memory Industry
, at NYU’s Cantor Film Center, 36 E. 8th Street, from 10:45
in the morning through 9:30 at night. The event is free and open to the public.

Key to the conception of this event is the notion of Second Thoughts. We will be engaging some of the top people with street cred, as it were, in this field, individuals (journalists, photojournalists, historians, artists, writers, human rights activists, scholars, and jurists etc.) who in one way or another have themselves been professionally engaged over the years in the passion of bearing witness, establishing the record and wresting acknowledgment vis-à-vis various depredations of the past—but who more recently may have begun to entertain misgivings of one sort or another as memory and the memorializing impulse have become increasingly reified, stylized, fetishized, and instrumentalized, hijacked and ossified into simply so many more bludgeons and pickaxes in the various rhetorical wars of grievance against grievance, competitive victimhood, and so forth. Hallowed Ground, the Families (this on the eve of the coming 9/11 Tenth Anniversary commemorations blitz)—memory as Bad Faith, as Avoidance or Distraction (screen memories), as a lazy substitute for thought. Trauma envy, genocide Olympics, memory fatigue, trauma tourism. In this context, for example, we will be taking a second look at both the evident achievements and the perhaps unexpected shortcomings of truth commissions, war crimes tribunals, reparations schemes and the like.  From the other side, we will also be considering a general coarsening of public life: the problem of shamelessness and the scandal of no scandal. And second thoughts, of course, may be expected to open out onto third thoughts as well.

Second Thoughts on the Memory Industry
Saturday May 7 Symposium
Cantor Film Center, 36 E 8th St, NYC


10:45 am
Thematic overview by Lawrence Weschler (NYIH director and author, among others, of
Calamities of Exile and A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers)
Keynote Address by Yale historian Timothy Snyder
Thinking back, and forward, from Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin
{putting the fixation on past catastrophes in the context of the need to be tending to
such rapidly gathering future crises as global warming}

12:00 pm
Comix master Art Spiegelman in conversation with Weschler on Maus and Metamaus and
novelist Francine Prose on a season in the Anne Frank industry, with respondents
NYU's Marita Sturken (Tangled Memories; Tourists of History) and
Columbia's Marianne Hirsch (Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz
in Jewish Memory
). Moderated by NYU's Diana Taylor
(director, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and author of
The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas)

2:15 pm
Monument and Memory in Iraq Lawrence Weschler in conversation with Brandeis’s
Kanan Makiya, author of The Republic of Fear and The Monument and founder of the
Iraq Memory Foundation, an NGO based in Baghdad and the US dedicated to
issues of remembrance, violence, and identity formation

3:00 pm
“Memory and its Discontents, or the Uses of Forgetting
—Fifteen years after Rwanda, and Beyond”
A talk by New Yorker reporter Philip Gourevitch, author of
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

3:45 pm
On Memory and Justice
NYU law professor Stephen Holmes engages journalist and New York Review of Books
contributor Ian Buruma, and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez (formerly
of HRW and ICTJ) in a reconsideration of the successes and failures of the past
several decades of war crimes tribunals and truth and reconciliation commissions

5:15 pm
On Photography and Bearing Witness
Premier photojournalists Gilles Peress and Susan Meiselas reassess
the drive to bear witness that has had them risking their lives in war zones
all over the world over the past several decades, in conversation with
scholar Ulrich Baer (Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma) and
cultural critic Susie Linfield (The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence,
2011 NBCC finalist in criticism)

6:30 pm
The Armenian Instance
Author and actor Eric Bogosian and writer/Guitar Boy punk singer
Nancy (“I don’t want to be a victim anymore”) Agabian  wrestle with mixed feelings about
still being heir to the Armenian genocide of almost a century ago

8:00 pm
The Manhattan premiere of “MEMORIAL CITY,” a new short (fifteen-minute) opera by comix master Ben Katchor and his frequent collaborator Mark Mulcahy, about a town that goes quite mad building memorials to everything, and the architects and experts who lavish solace on the town’s angst-ridden population. Followed by James E. Young (The Texture of Memory), a juror on both the Berlin Holocaust and the 9/11 World Trade Center memorials, and Founding Director of the just-launched Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reflecting on the memorializing impulse, and a concluding Berlin Epiphany meltdown by Lawrence Weschler

(Program to finish at approximately 9:30 pm)

Free and Open to the Public
(on a first-come, first-in basis; no tickets or reservations)

Times listed above are approximate at best.
Check for schedule updates at http://NYiHumanities.org.
For further information contact nyih.info@nyu.edu or 212.998.2101.

Nearest Subway Lines to Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street, between University Place & Greene Street
  (with caveat to check MTA's weekend service advisories prior to heading over)
A, C, E, B, D, F, V to West 4th Street (6th Ave.)
R, W to 8th St.--NYU (Broadway)
6 to Astor Place

For further information, or to arrange press interviews, please contact the
New York Institute for the Humanities at 212.998.2101 or nyih.info@nyu.edu.


Saturday, May 7, 2011 - 10:45am to 9:30pm

Second Thoughts on the Memory Industry

A Symposium

A day long series of talks and discussions featuring writers, photojournalists, comic artists, historians, human rights lawyers, cultural critics, performers, and others gathered to explore the achievements and pitfalls of the commemorating impulse. 

Listen to Lawrence Weschler, Ian Buruma, and Kanan Makiya discuss "The Memory Industry" on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show .


Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street


Click here to download press release

Click here to download the event poster

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Second Thoughts on the Memory Industry