New School For Social Research Memory Conference

CONF: Memory: Silence, Screen and Spectacle – March 24-26, 2011
(New York City, New York, USA)

The clamor of the past can be almost deafening: it preoccupies us
through speech, texts, screens, spaces and commemorative spectacles;
it makes demands on us to settle scores, uncover the “truth” and
search for justice; it begs for enshrinement in museums and memorials;
and it shapes our understanding of the present and future. However
noisy and ceaseless the demands and memory of the past may seem,
though, in every act of remembering there is something silenced,
suppressed, or forgotten. Memory’s inherent selectivity means that for
every narrative, representation, image, or sound evoking the past,
there is another that has become silent – deliberately forgotten,
carelessly omitted, or simply neglected.

It is the tension between the loud and often spectacular past and
those forgotten pasts we strain to hear that this conference seeks to
address. For those in the booming field of memory studies, this
tension between silence and spectacle is especially productive. As the
past often serves as a screen on which we project our present
ambitions and future aspirations, what is silenced and what is loudly
remembered tell us much about the present and future. This tension
also illuminates what has been selected for remembering and why;
allows for alternative memories and understandings to emerge; reminds
us that forgetting is sometimes necessary; and ultimately deepens our
theoretical and empirical understanding of memory and its processes.
The interplay of silence, screen, and spectacle also raises a number
of pressing questions that have been neglected in the field of memory
studies, but which will be increasingly important for future studies
of memory, including:
• Whose memories are silenced and suppressed (and by whom)?
• When is forgetting beneficial and/or necessary?
• How do forms of testimony and remembering (e.g., legal testimony vs.
oral history; traditional memory spaces like museums vs. other forms
of remembering like dance, art, and theater) work differently to make
memory heard or silenced?
• What is the relationship of memory to “truth” if a part of the past
is always silenced?
• What happens when memories long silenced are “heard” again?
• Does too much remembering cause static, keeping us from truly
“hearing” the past?
• What kind of knowledge is nostalgia, silence, or forgetting?
• What sources of “evidence” of the past are the most legitimate
today, what are the most convincing in public debates, international
courts, the media?
• What power does the visual have on us and how does it compete with
other sources of knowledge, such as documents, testimonies,
audio-recordings, and embodied memory?
• What can the visual hide; what is unspoken?

Panel and workshop themes may include: Remembering and Forgetting
9/11; Truth Commissions: Spectacle and Silence; Memory and Truth;
Silences, Memory, and U.S. Counter-Terrorism; Human Rights, Law and
Memory; Tourism and the Memory Market; New Media, Memory, and Silence;
Archives, Communities and Memory; Screening Silence: Visual Memory and
Forgetting; Nostalgia: Silence, Screen and Spectacle.

Please send an abstract with title of no longer than 250 words and a
short bio (200 words) including institutional affiliation, with 2011
ABSTRACT in the subject line to by
November 22, 2010. Decisions will be made by mid-January 2011 and
conference papers will be due February 18, 2011. We are examining
different avenues for possible publication of conference papers. Only
original papers submitted by February 18 will be considered for
publication. For information on the conference and our other
activities, visit

NSSR Interdisciplinary Memory Group
The New School
Visit the website at

Peter J. Wosh
Director, Archives/Public History Program
History Department
New York University
53 Washington Square South
Room 503
New York NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-8601
Fax: (212) 995-4017

Peter Wosh

About Peter Wosh

Professor Wosh directs the program in Archives and Public History at NYU. Professor Wosh’s research has focused primarily on American religion, American institutional cultures, and archival management issues. His background includes work as an archivist in a variety of academic and nonprofit institutions, including: Director of Archives and Library Services, American Bible Society (1989-1994); Archivist/Records Manager, American Bible Society (1984-1989); University Archivist, Seton Hall University (1978-1984). He is the author of Privacy and Confidentiality Perspectives: Archivists and Archival Records, with Menzi Behrnd-Klodt (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005); Covenant House: Journey of a Faith-Based Charity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994); The Diocesan Journal of Michael Augustine Corrigan, Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, 1872-1880 (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1987); as well as articles in various archival, historical, and library journals. Professor Wosh’s current research involves editing the published writings of Waldo Gifford Leland, a pioneering archival theoretician, for the Archival Classics series published by the Society of American Archivists.

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