STIAS Conference on Memory and the Past to be held in Berlin (29–31 Oct 2009)

Research fellows from STIAS (the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study) will be participating in an international conference focusing on Historical Memory and Social Transformation to be held in Berlin from 29 to 31 October.

The aim of the conference is to scrutinise the role of human memory in the processing of the past and of traumatic events. The focus will be on post-1989 events and the dramatic changes that followed these events, both in South Africa and in Germany. This conference follows on a visit, on invitation from Prof. Arnold van Zyl, Vice-rector: Research, by Dr Annette Schavan (the German Minister for Research and Education) to STIAS and Stellenbosch University in 2007. On the occasion of her visit, some of the research projects undertaken by STIAS were introduced to Minister Schavan.

Among these was the investigation of the ambiguous role played by human memory in processing the past. The encounter resulted in an invitation to STIAS, from Minister Schavan, to organise a conference on the same theme with German researchers and opinion shapers in Germany. The minister was of the opinion that the processing of the past has not received adequate attention following the reunification of the two Germanys in 1990; she was hoping that such a conference would promote discussion on this issue, not only between Germany and South Africa, but also among German citizens themselves.

Profs Bernard Lategan (founding director of STIAS), Mamadou Diawara and Jörn Rüsen, project leaders of the original STIAS project Historical Memory—Dealing with the past, reaching for the future as well as STIAS research fellows Profs Neville Alexander, Antjie Krog, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Elisio Macamo will deliver papers at the Berlin conference, while Hans Huyssen (presently a STIAS fellow and artist-in-residence), together with Madosini, will present a musical performance.

Breyten Breytenbach, well-known poet and writer, will be the guest speaker.

Prof Arnold van Zyl and Prof Hendrik Geyer, Director of STIAS, will also be attending the conference. On the German side, Minister Schavan and pre-eminent German academics, journalists and representatives of civil society will be taking part in the programme. Berghahn Books will publish Historical Memory in Africa in 2010, edited by Mamadou Diawara, Bernard Lategan and Jörn Rüsen; it is based on contributions by participants in the original STIAS project.

Prof Hendrik Geyer can be contacted at 021 808 2185 or  for additional information.

Leave a Reply