Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finding Mabel: documentary on Argentina's disappeared

Awhile ago, I received an email from Eileen Reardon, the director of Finding Mabel, a feature-length documentary film centered on Argentina's so-called "Dirty War." The film's synopsis follows:
Finding Mabel is a gripping documentary that follows a young woman's journey to Argentina, to piece together the enigmatic disappearance of the woman she was named after, one of the 30,000 people who disappeared during Argentina's last military dictatorship. Part scavenger hunt, part self-discovery, Finding Mabel intelligently weaves Argentina's recent dark past with today's polarizing struggle for justice.
For more, please see these links:

Fundraising campaign
Official website
Interview with the director here

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NBC Olympic Editing Generates Controversy

The other day, someone asked me, "did you even know that the Olympics were starting?" And frankly, no, I did not. While I certainly see the value of exercise and understand and believe in the positive effects of sport on the mind and body, I do not practice a sport regularly and I certainly have no interest in watching or following the Olympics (as an aside, I am a huge baseball fan, which is another story, and I listen to my team's games every day -- and have, since I was about 8).

When the Olympics were going on when I was a teenager, my friends and I would gather to watch figure skating in winter and gymnastics in summer. Mostly, as with anything during adolescence, it held a romantic attraction for us. In skating, we liked to see the sequins and the skirts and the death-defying spins of couples impossibly paired and destined for heartbreak. In gymnastics, we pined after the guys on the pommel horse and their resin-covered hands and longed to be petite little girls whose developing bodies were forever locked in amber. We spent quite a long time imitating these heroines -- in fact, I broke my wrist for the first time ice-skating, while pretending to be Peggy Fleming in front of a friend.

Somewhere between junior high and college, the Olympics lost their allure for me and became something only athletes watched. And it took some time, but I also began to experience that sense of what the Spanish call "vergüenza ajena" -- a kind of embarrassment one encounters on behalf of someone else. The chants of "USA, USA" make me cringe. So do the wearing of flags, whether they be American or those of another nation. And all the opening ceremonies showcasing the supposed harmony of the world, complete with native dances and costumes -- like a UNICEF Christmas card -- belie what the Olympics is really about: a kind of athletic nation-building extravaganza. Certainly, a great deal of the Olympics is still about superior athletic achievement and what the human body is capable of. But inevitably, no matter where the Olympics are held, we must encounter an "Olympic controversy."

This year, in London, the U.S. newschannel NBC has already gotten into the fray by editing out a ceremony commemorating the 7/7 terrorist bombings and instead, pasting in an interview between Ryan Seacrest and swimmer Michael Phelps (see British coverage of the story here and American here). As The Guardian reports, "NBC. . . chose to broadcast the entire ceremony on a time-delay to maximise primetime advertising revenue..." While revenue may be part of the story, the larger issue is memory and victimhood. 

Basically, NBC decided that American viewers would not be interested in watching a memorial tribute to the 52 victims of the London bombings, and would prefer to see their own heroes -- in this case, the former "boy next door"gold medal winner Michael Phelps, making his triumphant return. NBC's excuse was that the program was tailored for U.S. audiences.

Maybe, part of the problem is precisely that! What the U.S. needs less of is programs tailored to its own viewing preferences and more opportunities for engaging with the rest of the world. If a British TV channel had edited out a tribute to victims of 9-11, we most certainly would have voiced our outrage. The bottom line is that politics matters when it's our politics. Victims matter when they're our victims. 9-11 is the terrorist attack, and all others fall beneath it. Editing out something even as apparently minor as this 6-minute tribute does nothing to help the image of the U.S. abroad. And then we complain about "anti-Americanism!" The tribute to the London victims could have been an opportunity for Americans to contemplate 9-11 alongside 7/7. As Joanne Garde-Hansen writes in Media and Memory, "National broadcast media, in particular, across the world tend to tell self-aggrandising stories about a nation to a nation" (109). The Olympics is the perfect stage for tales of rebirth from the ashes -- as long as the ashes are those of our own.

See the BBC video here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

CFP: Remembering, Forgetting, Imagining - NY, March 2013

This sounds like an exciting conference, with Marianne Hirsch as keynote speaker. I am currently reading Hirsch's The Generation of Postmemory.

CFP: Remembering, Forgetting, Imagining: The Practices of Memory
1-2 March, 2013
Keynote speaker: Professor Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University
“Modern memory is, above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the recording, the visibility of the image.”
–Pierre Nora

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the crucial role of memory in formulating our individual and communal identities, and to examine the scholarly discipline of memory itself. We hope to initiate conversations about memory as an active and ongoing cognitive process rather than simply a reaction to past experiences or a set of “facts” frozen in time. While memory purports to preserve the past in the present, it is inherently protean and unstable, and prone to fictionalizing. Indeed, memory and imagination are tightly intertwined; memory and ideology are closely bound; and our memory of what has come before constantly shapes our understanding of and expectations about what is still to come.
This interdisciplinary conference, then, will explore not only this desire to make memory sacred but also our ability to forget, to forget that we've forgotten, and to imagine the past in a way that fits neatly into our worldviews. These questions are particularly relevant in the wake of recent revolutions and social movements in the Arab World, Europe, and even the United States; learning to reinvent the past in a certain way helps us to reimagine the future, and thus inaugurate change. Consequently, we invite proposals that explore the various and variegated practices of memory as figured through literature, culture, politics, and scholarship generally.
We welcome individual abstracts of 250 words or panel proposals of 750 words, for three participants, to by November 15, 2012. In addition to traditional academic papers, the committee encourages creative literary work, performance art, and multi-media presentations that in some way address the topic.

Presenters might consider, but are not limited to, the following questions:
• How is memory practiced through literature, art, film, or culture?
• Who remembers? What is remembered? What is forgotten? Whose voices are heard? Whose voices are suppressed?
• What is the role of “postmemory,” with its focus on the trauma of the past?
• How is memory understood in early eras, such as medieval or early modern?
• How do texts treat or reflect the past?
• How does the past help us prepare for the future?
• What is the role of imagination in memory or nostalgia?
• How is memory mediated by “memory makers” and memorials?
• In what ways has postmodernism influenced the study of memory?
• What is the role of psychoanalysis in memory studies?
• In what ways does the state repress and/or produce memory?
• How do neoconservatist or neoliberalist movements treat the past?
• How do memorializing objects—texts, photographs, monuments—produce and /or subvert an official state narrative?
• What is the role of affect in producing collective memory?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Coming Back to the Blog After a Long Absence

In the course of becoming a faithful blog reader, we all encounter those blogs that simply vanish, or those bloggers that seem to press "pause" with a final post, never even notifying readers of their departure. I never thought I would be one of those bloggers I always hated, but it happened. Memory, Amnesia and Politics went off the air (and was even noted on Bat, Bean, Beam in an excellent post on blog vanishings which I can't seem to locate at the moment -- ha ha) without a blip on the radar screen (I sure am mixing my media in this paragraph!). I kept thinking, I'll get back to it, I should post on this, but other more important events began to occupy my time and I turned my attention there. Since my last post here, I have been busy with two amazing trips to Europe -- one for research and one for pleasure -- having a baby and raising him (he is now 6 months old!) and moving into a new home. It is only now that a year has passed that I feel ready to attempt to pick up where I left off. I have several posts pending -- unwritten, as of yet -- on the following:
  • my visit to Spain in May 2011: "Memorials and Landscapes of 20th and 21st Century Spain" 
  • review of Paul Connerton's How Modernity Forgets
  • belated assessment of the Baltasar Garzón case
  • overview of a course I taught during Fall 2011, "Narratives of Violence and Reconciliation in Contemporary Spain"
  • review of Marianne Hirsch's new book The Generation of Postmemory (this will not be for some time, as I just got my copy in the mail)
  • review of Paul Preston's The Spanish Holocaust (in installments, as the book may take me several years to read and process -- I am only partly joking)
  • review of Patricio Guzmán's Nostalgia for the Light, which I saw in the days before giving birth
  • an overview, with personal photos, of the Kent State memorial in Ohio
I would like to avoid, if possible, the "copy and paste" format blog which this blog, as well as (Re) generando memorias, often slid into (usually a product of desperately wanting to share the story and realizing its value, but not being able to respond to it in a timely fashion). I have certainly enjoyed writing lengthy, detailed posts, but I must recognize I cannot do so with the same regularity as in the past. Therefore, I am setting a lower bar for myself -- just two posts a month for now. If I go over that, wonderful. I am viewing this blog as a continually evolving experiment. In the meantime, if you have comments or suggestions, please let me know by contacting me here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Judge Garzón to Speak at University of Minnesota - April 25, 2011

Spanish Judge, Baltasar Garzón, advocate of universal jurisdiction will speak April 25 at 2:00 p.m.
Rarely has a modern-day judge or human rights defender created as much controversy as Judge Baltasar Garzón. Garzón's supporters view him as an unrelenting human rights advocate, taking on high-profile cases including former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden. Garzón's critics write him off as an over-stepping judge who has abused his judicial power, including exceeding his authority by investigating Spanish Civil War atrocities.

Judge Garzón grabbed the world's attention in 1998 when he asked UK authorities to extradite former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to the Spanish court under an indictment of torture. Garzón's request was under the legal theory of universal jurisdiction, which allows any court to try individuals who are alleged to have committed the most serious international crimes, such as crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Since the Pinochet case, Garzón has continued to push for broad jurisdictional authority, opening investigations in the militant Basque separatist group, ETA, as well as Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. After his most recent investigation into the Franco era crimes of the Spanish Civil War, the tables were turned, and Garzón himself was indicted for overreaching his jurisdiction in investigating war crimes arising out of the Spanish Civil War.

Judge Garzón is challenging the lawfulness of his indictment in Spain which the International Center for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS) has described as a "threat to the independence of judges and to their role in ensuring accountability for alleged widespread and systematic crimes." Garzón alleges the criminal case against him violates several of Spain's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights including the obligation to protect individuals from an unfair criminal process.

Judge Garzón will speak at the University of Minnesota on April 25 at 2:00PM in Room 25 Mondale Hall, University of Minnesota Law School, 19th Ave South, Minneapolis MN 55455. His talk will focus on "Truth, Justice and Reparation". A reception will follow immediately Garzón's lecture.
Garzón's visit is being co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, The Institute for Global Studies, The Hubert Humphrey Center, The Law School, The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, Global Spotlight, European Studies Consortium
Event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Now Accepting Proposals for Panel on Baltasar Garzón - St. Louis, November 2011

Many bloggers and other readers end up on this site looking for information on Baltasar Garzón. I am now accepting proposals on Judge Garzón for a Special Session panel at the Midwest MLA (Modern Language Association), to be held in St. Louis in November 2011. For more information on the conference, please click here.
Baltasar Garzón: International Justice on Trial
This panel explores the figure of Judge Baltasar Garzón as a metaphor for post-dictatorial justice in Spain and Latin America. Seen alternately as an advocate for human rights or as a celebrity “activist judge,” many argue Garzón has displaced the cause of the very victims he purports to defend. From his orchestration of the Pinochet arrest to his failed attempt to investigate Francoist-era crimes, Garzón remains at the center of an ideological battle over the narrative reconstruction of the dictatorial past. This panel examines Garzón’s portrayal by self or others in journalism, film or new media, especially with regard to the construction of a transnational memory culture and the practice of citizenship in democratic societies. Papers welcome in English or Spanish.

Please submit 250-word abstracts as email attachments to Kathy Korcheck by June 3, 2011.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Conference: "Backward Glances: History, Imagination and Memory" - Ireland, August 2011

Seen in UPenn CFP:

Backward Glances: 31st August - 1st September
University College, Cork
contact email:

Call For Papers:

Backward Glances: History, Imagination, and Memory
University College Cork, Ireland.
31st August – 1st September 2011

Society is marked by a fascination with its past, yet this need or desire to look backward and understand, is complicated by the illusive nature of the past. Accessible only through the sites of text, memory and imagination, the past is, in essence, unstable and transitory. Both individual and communal in nature, it is continually exposed to processes of re-interpretation, revision, and re-writing. Anchored in the present, the backward glance is influenced by the concerns and needs of that present, and subject to the dominant ideological perspectives of a fleeting contemporary moment.

Backward Glances, a two-day interdisciplinary conference at University College Cork, seeks to generate dialogue and debate about the nature and function of the retrospective gaze. Exploring the diverse modes by which culture strives to assimilate its history, the conference considers the manner in which constructions of the past are conditioned by the lens of the present. The desire to reflect on and reshape former times is not limited to literature. The organisers invite 20-minute papers from a wide variety of fields. Topics may include but are not confined to:

• National history and national memory
• Spaces of Memory
• Historical fiction
• Individual and collective pasts
• Contested histories
• History and trauma
• History and gender
• Memoirs/Biography

Abstracts of approximately 200-250 words to be submitted to by 12th May 2011.

Please direct any queries to this address or see our website for more information.


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