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Humanities research to explore trauma, memory, memorialization


June 17, 2011

Memory, and how it shapes the future of an individual, group, and even a nation, is one of the focal points of new transdisciplinary humanities research at Arizona State University.

Faculty members from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences are asking: What is transgenerational memory and how can it transform legacies of cultural conflict and trauma? How does memorializing the past both aid and prevent healing in the present?

Their research is funded by a seed grant from the Institute for Humanities Research in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a conference grant in East European Studies from the American Council of Learned Societies.

“Something fundamentally new is taking place in the study of trauma, memory and memorializations,” said Martin Matuštík, Lincoln Professor of Ethics and Religion at ASU.

This work began in 2008 when Patricia Huntington, professor of philosophy and religious studies, formed an interdisciplinary faculty group with an IHR research cluster award. One outgrowth of this group has been the IHR-funded project “Heritage & Memory: Sites of Transgenerational Trauma, Moral Reminder, and Repair.”

Huntington and Matuštík, along with Eric Wertheimer, professor of English and director of the Center for Critical Inquiry and Cultural Studies have begun examining the effects of transgenerational trauma.

The ACLS conference grant, along with support from ASU’s Center for Jewish Studies, CCICS, Project Humanities and IHR, will support a symposium in the fall semester titled “Memory & Countermemory: Memorialization of an Open Future.” The research symposium will be held Nov. 6-8 at ASU’s Tempe and West campuses. It will include academic sessions, public keynote address, stage production and film screening.

The symposium, conceived and organized by Matuštík and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, director of the Jewish Studies program, includes 16 distinguished scholars from the U.S. and Europe. Contributing perspectives from a variety of geographical places and approaches, leading scholars of Holocaust studies will reflect on conflicted sites of memory with specialists in genocide studies, postcolonial studies, East European Studies, and trauma studies. Anticipating Arizona’s centennial in 2012, the symposium will highlight some of the Southwest legacies connected to the global and local memory.

A goal of the symposium and research project is the formation of a consortium of international specialists that would function as a resource for academic and non-academic audiences who seek to impact conflict resolution by developing effective strategies and tools for negotiating peace.

ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research has taken the lead in promoting excellence and innovation in humanities scholarship by contributing to scholarly research and engaging the community. The institute’s seed grant program, established in 2005, addresses socially significant issues with innovative solutions by providing funds to tenure and tenure track humanities faculty for the purpose of conducting research and developing proposals for submission to external funding agencies.

For more information on the “Memory & Countermemory: Memorialization of an Open Future” symposium, visit http://jewishstudies.clas.asu.edu/memory.

Additional information about the Institute for Humanities Research at ASU and its seed grant program is available at 480-965-3000 or online at http://ihr.asu.edu/research/seed.