After Violence: The (Im-)Possibility of Understanding and Remembering
10–17 June 2019 in Dnipro, Ukraine
The Transregional Academy took place at the “Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies and the Museum “Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine”, located at the Menorah Dnipro Multifunctional Center.
The Transregional Academy gathered 18-20 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars from various social sciences and humanities disciplines (including, but not exclusive to, history, literature, social anthropology, social psychology, sociology and political sciences) whose studies relate to the Academy’s above-mentioned topic(s) and questions.
Our Transregional Academy addressed issues related to the understanding and remembering of traumatic experiences of physical and symbolic violence that occurred during the 20th and 21st centuries. This violence was prolonged by the erasure of memory, through silence, oblivion, fear, indifference, and manipulation of the public consciousness. The Academy will consider problems of representation and the silencing of traumas in various kinds of narrative texts (memories, fiction, journalistic texts, historiography, cinema, graphic arts, paintings, monuments and other symbolic structures). The Transregional Academy predominantly focussed on Ukraine, which became one of the main battlefields of the 20th century, profoundly affected by revolutions, the two world wars, and the Holocaust. Ukraine now represents a space of both military and symbolic conflict. The Academy additionally wanted to explore studies covering the wider Eastern-European region, seeking original and productive comparisons with similar phenomena beyond Ukraine. Researchers engaged in interdisciplinary work in the humanities and social sciences are highly welcomed.
The Transregional Academy aimed to reflect upon the following themes, among others, in discussion:
Experiencing and witnessing traumatic events
What are the limits of reasoning a continued traumatic experience and how can we approach the moral dimension of such a mental act? Is it possible to create intellectual distance and, at the same time, maintain moral sensitivity to ongoing violence, when it has already become entrenched in everyday practices, and when the language of hatred has become a completely “natural” expression? How can the logic behind decisions of those people that are recruited to commit violence and kill their own compatriots, neighbors, or even friends and relatives, be explained (but not excused)? How could victims be perpetrators at the same time? What can we learn from analyzing the strategies of perpetrators to rationalize and self-justify their behavior? What traps could someone encounter from trying to comprehend the actions of a perpetrator?
Living and dealing with memories of a traumatic past
What kind of experiences and memories could be provoked despite or because of silencing the trauma? How did preserving and disseminating the knowledge about “unsanctioned” and unspoken traumatic experiences during Soviet era function? What are the long-lasting effects of living in a society of victims and perpetrators without any public reflection on the violence that once took place?
Commemoration, practices of forgetting and/or forgiving, and discourses beyond them
Do commemorative practices bring us closer or further away from a deeper understanding of violence? Is it possible to recall knowledge and experiences of violence one did not suffer from? What kind of experience cannot be covered by commemorative practices? How can commemoration become a self-negating practice? How can the process of forgiving contribute to reconciliation?
Interacting with the City
The Transregional Academy was held in Dnipro (Ekaterinoslav-Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine, where Cossack, Polish, and Russian imperial traditions compete with respect to the city’s origins. The city holds a special character from its closed status after the Second World War due to its production facilities for rocket missiles.
The Academy did not only include lectures and discussions on the participants’ projects, but also organized anthropological fieldwork in various urban areas. This part of the Transregional Academy was aimed to encourage reflection on the possible reasons behind the exclusion of certain actors and traditions from the urban collective memory. It also aimed to direct participants to thinking of how the past becomes a concern of the present through the planning and opening of different memorial sites.
Steering Committee: Iuliia Buyskykh (Kyiv), Susi K. Frank (Berlin), Andrii Portnov (Frankfurt/Oder), Ulrich Schmid (St. Gallen), Igor Shchupak (Dnipro), Viktoriia Serhiienko (Kyiv), Denys Shatalov (Dnipro), Annette Werberger (Frankfurt/Oder).
Scholars to be Invited to Give Guest Lectures: Korine Amacher (University of Geneva), Jan C. Behrends (Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) Potsdam), Serhii Plokhy (Harvard University), Miloš Řeznik (German Historical Insitute Warsaw), Carmen Scheide (University of Bern), Alexander Wöll (University of Potsdam).