Call for papers for a journal special issue
Dialogic Remembering beyond Reconciliation: Politics, Practices, and Potentialities
Guest editors: Ksenia Robbe, Andrei Zavadski, and Agnieszka Mrozik
In our age of human rights, ‘reconciliation’ has been an aspiration of virtually all post-conflict societies or states that ‘transitioned’ from colonial, dictatorial or authoritarian regimes. ‘Dialogue’ – between (former) victims and perpetrators, (former) colonizers and the colonized, ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of regime change – is typically posited as a principal means to achieve this goal. However, when practiced in projects based on standardized practices of ‘dealing with the past’ meant to stimulate interaction between representatives of conflicting sides (even with allowance for the variety of models of reconciliation – see Gabowitsch 2017), such approaches often fail to create social cohesion. Instead of producing tolerance, forgiveness and/or understanding, they frequently result in growing resentment and lack of sensitivity regarding the impact of the past on the present as well as in nationalist and other exclusionary practices (David 2020; Gensburger and Lefranc 2020; Mink 2008). Furthermore, reconciliation efforts, especially when facilitated by tokenistic dialogue, tend to erase the past of emancipatory struggles that do not fit into new ideologies of nation-building (Grunebaum 2011; Kirn 2022; Litvinenko and Zavadski 2020; Malinova 2021). They can also involve de-politicization of public life by suggesting that a contentious past can be transcended or overcome simply by declaring a new beginning (Khlevnyuk 2021) or drawing a ‘thick line’ between the past and the present, to quote the Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s (1989) parliamentary address, in which he rhetorically separated the transitional coalition government from the legacies of the Communist Party that had ruled Poland after the Second World War. Such politics of separation in the name of ‘reconciling’ different social and political groups to shape a new nation often lead to the marginalization and silencing of voices and experiences that envisioned other post-conflict, postcolonial or post-socialist futures, which can fuel memory-based societal tensions and ultimately result in polarization. While abuses involved in the process of reconciliation (and dialogue as its key mechanism) are hard to disregard, the potential for mutual understanding and solidarity that the idea of the dialogic carries is undeniable (Assmann 2015). In this issue, we propose to reflect on dialogic remembering beyond facile moralization and political instrumentalization, highlighting and theorizing practices that allow for sharing varying memories, voicing difference and dissent, relating to stories of others, and potentially creating new narratives that interlink divergent visions of the past.
The proposed special issue aims to bring together a variety of memory practices, both historical and contemporary, from different regions of the world. While the term ‘reconciliation’ has most commonly been employed in post-war and post-conflict contexts and in practices of transitional justice, we approach it as a broader construct – a discursive concept rather than a reference to historical reality. With this, we do not imply an equality between post-conflict transformations and more peaceful, negotiated regime change; rather, we want to point to similarities between the official memory politics and policies in different post-transitional contexts, suggesting that they are interconnected, at least since the mid/late 20th century, through the discursive regime of ‘reconciliation.’ While this regime originated in human rights approaches to conflict that aimed at developing transnational ‘cosmopolitan’ memory (Levy and Sznaider 2010), the rhetoric of reconciliation has also been used by authoritarian and nationalist actors, and as a way of public ‘forgetting’ of social inequalities and ‘overcoming’ hardships of socio-economic transformation as well as ‘tempering anger’ of those who lost out on it (Ðureinovic 2020; Ghodsee and Orenstein 2019; Khlevnyuk 2021; Malinova 2018; Ost 2005). This framework also draws attention to how ‘peaceful’ regime change often involved violence, loss, and traumatization (such as during some of decolonization processes or post-socialist ‘transitions’ in Eastern Europe), which has not been acknowledged in official versions of memory. This is one of the ways in which we can understand the current wave of right-wing populism.
If ideas of ‘dialogue’ have been discredited or questioned as a result of these ‘uses of the past,’ does it make sense to draw on them in any way? We proceed from the premise that some version of dialogism or multi-perspective remembering is necessary to develop genuinely democratic memory forms that allow different publics, social groups, and minorities to be represented and heard by other publics, groups, and minorities as well as by the public-at-large. This special issue proposes shifting the analytical lens from the research on political instrumentalization of memories towards potential convergencies that can be found in vernacular memories as well as mediations illuminating the latter or creating possibilities for different voices and social experiences to converse and relate to each other. Thus, we suggest focusing on practices and forms of ‘implicit collective memory’ (Erll 2022) which refers to the myriad of unconscious ‘schematic memorata’ (visual icons, narrative patterns, stereotypes, norms, and similar) that are collectively shared, transmitted and selectively adopted. Such memories are often not clearly articulated, but they manifest their power in terms of shaping both individual and collective perceptions and actions. While such implicit memories have been actively tapped by right-wing populist actors for creating ‘us vs. them’ narratives (De Cesari and Kaya 2020), it is high time that research gauged how some of these memories involve relational potentialities that can become the basis for dialogic articulations. As we are observing a new (generational) wave of revising mnemonic approaches and frameworks, we suggest focusing on how these processes are taking place, particularly ‘from below’ and from between the cracks of established discourses, and asking what mnemonic potential they may involve.
This idea of dialogic remembering as a process – and not as a metaphor – that draws on implicitly present connections and makes them explicit to agents of remembering (individuals and groups) has grown out of our research on strategies of facilitating links between diverging memories of the 1980–90s transitions in East European contexts. We are drawing on the Bakhtinian concept of dialogue as denoting interactions between irreducibly different perspectives and experiences which may take the form of contestation as well as partial agreement or mutual change while preserving structures of ‘dissensus’ (Rancière 2010). This concept is closely related to the notions of ‘multidirectional’ (Rothberg 2009) and ‘agonistic’ memory (Cento Bull and Hansen 2016) but involves several differences. Similar to multidirectional practices, dialogic practices interconnect memories of different communities and potentially produce ‘differential solidarities’ (Rothberg 2011); however, our focus is on diverging perspectives upon the same controversial pasts rather than different historical events (such as the Holocaust and slavery, in Rothberg’s analysis), whereby conflicts between different social groups stand central. Like ‘agonistic,’ the memories we are concerned with are “open-endedly,” rather than “consensually,” dialogic, and have the potential of re-politicizing engagements with the past beyond moralization (Cento Bull and Hansen 2016). At the same time, critiques of this conceptualization of agonistic memory have indicated the necessity of an ethical underpinning for adversarial mnemonic practices (Kansteiner and Berger 2021). Given these contradictions, rather than approaching agonistic memory as a normative framework, we propose to start elsewhere and to trace how dialogue is already taking place at the micro-level of social and cultural practices, and which of such practices hold the potential for accommodating difference.
With the proposed special issue, we aim to develop the concept of dialogic remembering by testing and further elaborating it in relation to a variety of research questions and objects, including studies of memory in social and artistic practices, political discourses, literary texts, museums, films, and social media. We welcome various approaches of humanities and social sciences as well as methodologies involving perspectives of psychology, neuro- and cognitive sciences. The issue invites contributions that capture and analyse various types of resistance, expressions of discontent and anger, and practices of silence, including those voices that do not articulate clear-cut positions or that speak in idioms that differ from languages of democratic deliberation. Such sensitivity to differently voiced or under-articulated memories is especially relevant for authoritarian societies and those in which (post)coloniality is a major factor. We propose to explore contradictions and connections within the existing and emerging practices of remembering as a ground for potential solidarities between different social groups, political positions, and memory cultures. Finally, we invite further theorizations of dialogic remembering and reflections on the limitations as well as unexplored possibilities of this concept.
We invite article proposals of ca. 350 words outlining the argument as well as the methodology and primary sources. The proposals along with biographical notes should be sent to Ksenia Robbe (firstname.lastname@example.org), Andrei Zavadski (email@example.com) and Agnieszka Mrozik (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 15. The editors of the special issue will notify the authors of acceptance or rejection by April 1. After that, a proposal for the special issue will be considered by interdisciplinary journals that have expressed interest in the topic. The authors whose paper proposals are accepted by the journal will be invited to submit full drafts by November 2023, which will be reviewed by the editors and sent for double-blind peer review. Please note that final acceptance is subject to peer review process.
Assmann, Aleida. “Dialogic Memory.” Dialogue as a Trans-Disciplinary Concept: Martin Buber’s Philosophy of Dialogue and Its Contemporary Reception. Ed. Paul Mendes-Flohr. New York and Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015. 199–214.
Cento Bull, Anna & Hans Lauge Hansen. “On Agonistic Memory.” Memory Studies 9. 4 (2016): 390–404.
David, Lea. The Past Can’t Heal Us: The Dangers of Mandating Memory in the Name of Human Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
De Cesari, Chiara and Ayhan Kaya (eds.) European Memory in Populism: Representations of Self and Other. New York & London: Routledge, 2020.
Ðureinović, Jelena. The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia: Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution. New York and London: Routledge, 2020.
Erll, Astrid. “The Hidden Power of Implicit Collective Memory.” Memory, Mind & Media 1.14 (2022): 1–17.
Gabowitsch, Mischa. “Replicating Atonement: The German Model and Beyond.” Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in Commemoration of Atrocities. Ed. Mischa Gabowitsch. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 1–21.
Gensburger, Sarah, and Sandrine Lefranc. Beyond Memory: Can We Really Learn from the Past? Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
Ghodsee, Kristen and Mitchell Orenstein. Taking Stock of Shock: Social Consequences of the 1989 Revolutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Grunebaum, Heidi. Memorializing the Past: Everyday Life in South Africa after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. New York: Transaction, 2011.
Kansteiner, Wulf and Stefan Berger. “Agonism and Memory.” Agonistic Memory and the Legacy of 20th Century Wars in Europe. Eds. Stefan Berger and Wulf Kansteiner. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 203–245.
Khlevnyuk, Daria. “‘Silencing’ or ‘Magnifying’ Memories? Stalin’s Repressions and the 1990s in Russian Museums. Problems of Post-Communism (online first) (2021): 1–10.
Kirn, Gal. “‘The Primitive Accumulation of Capital and Memory’: Mnemonic Wars as National Reconciliation Discourse in (Post-)Yugoslavia.” Memory Studies (2022), forthcoming.
Levy, Daniel and Nathan Sznaider. Human Rights and Memory. Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 2010.
Litvinenko, Anna and Andrei Zavadski. “Memories on Demand: Narratives about 1917 in Russia’s Online Publics.” Europe-Asia Studies 72.10 (2020): 1657–1677.
Malinova, Olga. “Framing the Collective Memory of the 1990s as a Legitimation Tool for Putin’s Regime.” Problems of Post-Communism 68.5 (2021): 429–441.
Malinova, Olga. “The Embarrassing Centenary: Reinterpretation of the 1917 Revolution in the Official Historical Narrative of Post-Soviet Russia (1991–2017).” Nationalities Papers 46.2 (2018): 272–289.
Mazowiecki, Tadeusz. “Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki Addresses Sejm, the Lower House of the Polish Parliament. September 12, 1989.” https://publica.pl/teksty/chce-byc-premierem-rzadu-wszystkich-polakow-50729.html
Mink, Georges. “Between Reconciliation and the Reactivation of Past Conflicts in Europe: Rethinking Social Memory Paradigms.” Czech Sociological Review 44. 3 (2008): 469–490.
Ost, David. Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.
Rancière, Jacques. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Trans. Steven Corcoran. New York: Continuum.
Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2009.
Rothberg, Michael. “From Gaza to Warsaw: Mapping Multidirectional Memory.” Criticism 53.4 (2011): 523–548.