Tag Archives: History

Call for Papers: “From memories to the future”

The Italian Sociological Association (A.I.S.), the European Sociological Association (ESA) and the Department of Political Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, propose an international conference on the following topic:

From memories to the future
Collective memories and horizons of expectations
in contemporary Europe
Napoli – June 4/5, 2015

With the participation of:

  • Labex “Le passés dans le présent”, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre
  • Art & Humanities Research Council “Care for the Future”, University of Exeter
  • Department of Social Sciences, University “Federico II”, Naples
  • Department of Economics and Statistics, University “Federico II”, Naples
  • Department of Human and Social Sciences, University L’Orientale, Naples
  • Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Calabria, Rende

The official language of the conference will be English.

The conference will include both keynote speakers and authors of selected papers.

The list of keynote speakers includes: Barbara Adam (GB, Cardiff University), Marie-Claire Lavabre (France, CNRS), Giuliana Mandich (Italy, University of Cagliari), Anna Lisa Tota (Italy, University Roma Tre), John Urry (GB, Lancaster University).

Keynote speakers will participate in a plenary session; the papers presented will be selected according to the topics dealt with in parallel sessions. The number of sessions will be decided based on the papers received. The hosting Department will be responsible for managing and organizing conference materials.


The sociology of memory has developed considerably over the last few decades across Europe, in combination with other disciplines. In most European countries there have been studies on the collective memory, some of which investigate the memory of Europe as a whole. Several attempts have been made to try to systematically refine the theoretical and methodological approaches at stake. This scientific interest corresponds to the widespread – albeit conflicting – interests of various communities in their own memories.

This focus on the past is matched by equally strong concerns about the future. Concern with the future is to be found at the very beginning of the sociological tradition but, as the empirically problematic realm of the “not yet”, the future has always occupied a fluctuating position within sociology. While a “Sociology of the Future” emerged within the field of future studies at the end of the sixties (investigating probable, possible, and preferable futures), more recently the future as a cultural fact has gained attention. In this perspective the new sociologies of the future challenge the supremacy of predictions (mostly formulated in terms of economic issues) by exploring the plausibility of “what might be” within the framework of an “ethic of possibilities”.

Yet, the representation of the past and that of the future are intertwined: on one side, memories are influenced by the current interests and plans of individuals and groups; on the other, memories themselves affect the ways in which the future can be anticipated in the imagination and concretely shaped in action. This may be said at every level of social life: cultural, political, economic and technological.

There is a connection between the ways in which we represent our past and our horizons of expectations: the aim of the conference is to focus on such interdependence, hence opening new perspectives in the fields of sociology of memory and future studies. The investigation will be carried out both from a theoretical and an empirical point of view, through the analysis of specific cases and particularly considering how representations of the recent past merge with the expectations developed by the new generations in Europe.

The conference’s focuses on theoretical and empirical studies, but also extends to the public sphere of European society: it also aims to enhance citizens’ awareness of the various possible ways of processing the past and how these influence the conjectures, aspirations and fears that current policies and actions are based on. Exploring our societies’ past and new expectations, and the concrete ways we are now producing the future, provides a context for responsibility:  we will be the past of our posterity’s future.

Call for papers

As for the papers, both empirical research and theoretical surveys can be proposed. Since the selected topic is interdisciplinary by nature, contributions that elicit interaction between sociology and other disciplines will be welcomed.

The papers may focus on the following topics:

  • Memory studies and future studies in the history of the social sciences
  • Public memories and public representations of the future
  • Working through the past: cultural traumas and the future of societies
  • Representations of the past and the future and social conflicts
  • Social movements between memories and contested futures
  • Remembering utopias
  • The media imaginary and the future: hegemonic and counter-hegemonic narratives
  • Memories and futures in daily life
  • The extended present and short-term expectations
  • Gender differences in perspectives on the past and the future
  • Infra- and inter-generational dynamics concerning visions of the past and future
  • Memories and futures of immigrants in Europe
  • Postcolonial memories, postcolonial futures
  • Technologies, memories and social innovations

Extended abstracts (MAX 1.000 words) of the proposed papers may be submitted until March, 28, 2015, together with a short author CV (MAX 200 words), to the following addresses: agodi@unina.it and paolo.jedlowski@unical.it

A list of the papers admitted will be communicated on April 30, 2015.

Scientific committee:

  • Maria Carmela Agodi (Member of the AIS and ESA executive committees)
  • Paola Di Nicola (AIS President)
  • Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes (Head of Project, labex “Le passés dans le présent”)
  • Mark D. Jacobs (Chair of ESA RN7 “Sociology of Culture”)
  • Paolo Jedlowski (AIS Vice-President)
  • Carmen Leccardi (ESA President)
  • Marita Rampazi (Chair of AIS Research Committees)
  • Andrew Thompson (Director of AHRC “Care for the Future”)
  • Anna Lisa Tota (Chair of AIS RS “Culture and Communication”)

Organizing Committee:

Maria Carmela Agodi, Giuseppe L. De Luca Picione, Paola De Vivo, Paolo Jedlowski, Monica Massari, Rossella Michienzi, Lello Savonardo.

Report on AHRC/LABEX Franco-British Research Workshop 1

Northcott 1Fondation Royaumont, Val d’Oise, France 16-17 January 2015

By Michael Northcott, m.northcott@ed.ac.uk

A Franco-British Research Workshop of grant holders from the AHRC’s Care for the Future grant call and LABEX’s (Laboratory of Excellence) grant call ‘Les passes dans le present: histoire, patrimoine, memoire’ was held at the former Cistercian Abbey of Royaumont 20 miles north of Paris in January 2015. The Abbey was built in the thirteenth century and patronised by Louis XIV. It is situated in a large walled enclosure of gardens, water features and stone buildings. Over the centuries the monks instituted some remarkable hydrological features. The abbey is situated between two lakes on raised ground Northcott labex 2and water from one lake flows through the Abbey grounds and buildings and out to the other lake, Along the way it was stone and sand filtered for drinking water, its flow was used for a mill, while separate channels combined with settlement pools and small weirs were used to separate and cleanse waste water. The resultant water use and supply was very advanced for its era while at the same time the channelling of water around the site considerably enhances the beauty of the buildings and grounds. I was reminded of the similar use of water in the Alhambra at Grenada and indeed the Abbey is an interesting example of Islamic influence on French ecclesiastical aesthetics. This influence is acknowledged in the commentaries provided by the Royaumont Foundation – who are the present owners of the Abbey – on the gardens in which it is pointed out that until 1100 monastic gardens were working gardens providing foodstuffs, herbal medicines and beverage related plants to the monasteries. Northcott labex 3But under Islamic influence the uses of gardens as places of contemplation, and for aesthetic appreciation, became more prominent and vestiges of this turn can be seen income of the restored gardens at Royaumont. The Abbey also had managed woodlands for fuel which can still be seen to the North of the present site.

The title of the workshop was ‘Delving back into the past to look into the present and future’ and the main aim was to explore interconnections between the AHRC Care for the Future and LABEX Pasts in the Present research calls. Both grant themes sponsor modes of representation of the past from interdisciplinary perspectives. A number of the presentations raised issues relevant to the AHRC Environment and Sustainability theme, and I will just highlight these. A fuller Northcott labex 4discussion of presentations is available in the blog by Lucy Veale athttp://careforthefuture.exeter.ac.uk/blog Sophie Richter-Devro, from the University of Exeter, in her presentation on her research into the oral history of Bedouin women in Palestine highlighted the difficulties of writing or documenting flexible, ever changing oral traditions, and the dangers of ‘freezing’ narratives and communities. Paulo Jedlowski, from the University of Calabria, in a philosophical presentation on ‘Memories of the Future’ drew on the work of Koselleck in examining portrayals of ‘future presents’ and ‘present futures’, for example in science fiction novels and films, and discussed how such past imagined futures might underwrite intergenerational connections. Intergenerational connections were also addressed by Richard Haynes, from the University of Stirling, whose presentation on sports heritage in Glasgow demonstrated the use of archival research, geo-referencing and mapping activities with school children to engage with communities across generations. The presentation of Carry van Lieshout from the University of Nottingham on the ‘The Power and the Water’ project linked historical with contemporary research around water management, access and the environment, and revealed conflicts and solutions of the past that may be useful today. Lucy Veale of the University of Nottingham gave a presentation on the Extreme weather project in which she highlighted the importance of archive, datasets, memory and narrative in framing present-day responses to extreme weather. Northcott labex 5Religious understandings of temporality, and specifically deep time, was tackled by Michael Northcott, of the University of Edinburgh, who described the way geological time – as invented by James Hutton and Charles Lyell -displaced human intergenerational history from earth or natural history, a displacement that the new geological epoch of the Anthropocene reverses in ways that are generative of cultural imaginaries of climate change and species extinction. A presentation by Carlos Lopez Galviz, School of Advanced Study, University of London, compared the nineteenth century development of the urbanscapes of London and Paris, and the role of futuristic imaginaries in their respective shaping. In a helpful summative comment Andrew Thompson observed the importance of recognising the multiplicity of imagined todays, tomorrows and yesterdays in our respective projects.

Northcott labex 6The joint workshop was an excellent example of Franco-British cooperation and a new initiative for AHRC and LABEX. Andrew Thompson and director of the LABEX theme, Marie-Claire Lavabre, in their concluding remarks also indicated their clear and joint intention to launch a joint funding call between AHRC and LABEX for research projects involving collaboration between researchers from the Care for the Future theme and the LABEX ‘Les Passes dans le present’ theme.


History in the making

The article below was written by Malcolm Lucard and is cross-posted from the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. It includes material from an interview with Prof Andrew Thompson, Leadership Fellow of Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past.

History in the making

Photo from https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/icrc-archives/

Malcolm Lucard

Internal records from the ICRC’s archives concerning the conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s shed light on a decisive era for humanitarian action.

In a small room in the basement of ICRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, historian Andrew Thompson methodically pores through folders full of documents — typewritten mission reports, confidential telegrams and hand-written letters — never before seen by people outside the ICRC.

“It is a process of discovery,” says Thompson, a professor of history at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. “There is a sense of expectation and anticipation not knowing what is going to be there. For a historian, it’s a bit like opening a birthday present, or like going into a candy shop.”

The ‘candy shop’ in this case is the ICRC archives, where Thompson is exploring 40- to 50-year-old records to be released to the public in January 2015 under the ICRC’s policy of making internal documents public in blocks of ten years once 40 years have passed since the events they describe.

Aside from exciting Thompson’s intellectual curiosity, these records offer a deeper understanding of conflicts going on between 1965 and 1975. In particular, they give insight into an area of great interest to Thompson, who took an early look at the records in order to pursue research on the evolution of international humanitarian law and human rights law as they pertain to the treatment of political detainees in non-international conflicts.

“I see the ICRC archive as hugely important for people thinking and writing about the past and present of humanitarian aid and human rights,” he says. “But it’s also much more than that. It’s an archive that allows for studying conflict in all its different dimensions.”

The archives are a treasure trove for historians as they contain first-hand accounts from delegates on the ground, as well as internal and external correspondence, for every major conflict during the period in question. According to Thompson, they offer a perspective not always found in diplomatic or military archives because in addition to political analysis, they show how conflict affects the lives of ordinary people on the ground.

Watershed moments
In this case, the records offer considerable insight into the Biafran war in Nigeria, a watershed moment for the humanitarian sector, as well as the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours, the United States war in Viet Nam, the civil war in Yemen and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, among many others.

They also show how important principles and precedents in the implementation of international humanitarian law and human rights law evolved in the post-Second World War and Cold War eras, as many colonies engaged in wars of independence and the stalemate between global superpowers resulted in a proliferation of proxy wars around the world.

One area of particular interest to Thompson is how the ICRC’s experiences in places such as South Africa and Yemen (including what was until 1967 the British-controlled State of Aden) helped shape the way human rights and humanitarian groups responded to political detainees. Among the records are first-hand accounts of then-ICRC delegate André Rochat making his first visit to wary and sceptical political detainees in Yemeni prisons.

There is also the very matter-of-fact description of a delegate’s interview in 1967 with a political detainee in South Africa named Nelson Mandela who, along with 30 other detainees, was working in a limestone quarry on Robben Island, one of the more notorious prisons operated by South Africa’s then apartheid government.

The ICRC began visiting ‘security convicted prisoners’ in South Africa in 1963. After that, the ICRC regularly met Mandela on Robben Island and later in Polsmoor prison, until his liberation in February 1990. Mandela mentions these visits in his biography A Long Walk to Freedom.

Notable in the report is Mandela’s frank and even-handed description of prison conditions and a detailed account of the medical conditions of his fellow inmates. But when discussing his own case, he replies simply: “I personally have no complaints.”

Transparency and reflection
Not all the records, however, have been completely sealed until now. Researchers can ask for permission to review unreleased portions of ICRC archives for particular research projects and those involved in events described in the records can ask to look over relevant files.

But the records are not just interesting to historians. They are also a resource for the Movement, as they contain considerable information about National Society actions, and for anyone who might want to appraise humanitarian action and its impact.

“The archives ensure the organization’s ability to take stock of the actions called for by its mandate,” says Jean-Luc Blondel, head of the ICRC archives. “They play an important role in the duty of an organization to be transparent. As part of this duty and in order to benefit from outside perspectives and approaches, the ICRC encourages research and independent critique of its history and the fulfilment of its mandate,” Blondel adds.

“Such an attitude doesn’t come without risks,” he notes. “The examination of dossiers can put into evidence the mistakes in negotiation, the misuse of language or a lack of diplomacy.” In some cases, it reveals certain prevailing cultural attitudes of the time — a lack of cultural sensitivity and even racist undertones in the way some people expressed themselves, Blondel notes.

“In other cases, for example in the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent, some events that occurred more than 40 years ago are still very present in people’s minds today and the analyses or the course of events described then could affect present actions and negotiations.”

Nonetheless, the illumination offered by the past, Blondel suggests, also allows a better understanding of the roots of conflicts and a potential insight into how to facilitate resolution to conflicts or at least engage parties in a positive dynamic towards that end.

The Movement also recognizes the importance of the memories contained in these archives, one reason the Council of Delegates in 2011 adopted a resolution that calls for the preservation of its historic and cultural heritage. This issue will be revisited during the Council of Delegates in 2015.

By Malcolm Lucard
Malcolm Lucard is the editor of Red Cross Red Crescent magazine.

– See more at: http://www.redcross.int/EN/mag/magazine2014_3/24-25.html#sthash.C5qtyu76.dpuf