CFP: Polish-German Post-Memory (9/1/06; 4/19/07-4/21/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Justyna Beinek
contact email:

CFP: Polish-German Post-Memory (9/1/06; 4/19-21/07)


Conference to be held at Indiana University
(Bloomington), April 19-21, 2007

Conference description

In the aftermath of the fall of the communist
government in Poland and of the Berlin Wall in
Germany, historians of both countries have brought new
perspectives for examining post-war Polish-German
history, particularly the flight and expulsion of
Germans from Polish lands. These new perspectives have
their counterparts in literary treatments of and
references to the separation of Poles and Germans as
well as the publication of numerous memoirs by those
who experienced the atrocities of the war and the
post-war events. The result has been a re-examination
of this period of Polish-German relations which has
contributed to a public debate over the meaning of
this shared history. In the course of this debate,
established notions of guilt and innocence, fact and
fiction, justice and forms of redress are all

This interdisciplinary conference addresses how this
history has been configured over the course of the
postwar period.

Although we understand the flight and expulsion of the
Germans as a historical event, in organizing this
conference we wish to consider the types of
meta-narratives that have shaped Polish-German
cultural and political relations. What traces of these
events can be found in the cultural memories of two
nations with such complicated pasts more than sixty
years after the end of the war? How have these
memories affected Polish and German self-narratives?
How have they been mobilized to affect one nation’s
imagination of the other? What kinds of cultural
exchanges have memories of these events stirred? What
is their cultural status and what are the mechanisms
of their manipulation for political gain? How do the
major discursive tropes of presence and absence enter
into the memories and post-memories of people, places,
and times? How do memories of the flight and expulsion
differ from “post-memory” and how does the social
position of the one who remembers affect the process
of remembering and forgetting?

We are interested in the ways Poles and Germans have
configured and politicized their respective histories
of traumatic events. What, politically and culturally,
was at stake in promoting certain paradigms of
cultural memory at various moments in postwar history?
 What aesthetic, ethical, and political strategies
were employed in transmitting specific social
constructions of cultural memory to subsequent

In the expectation that the analysis of these issues
will influence discussions in trauma and memory
studies as well as other fields addressing
German-Polish history, we plan to use the conference
as the starting point for an edited volume of essays.

To share in this exploration of the culture of memory
(and the memory of culture), we invite the
participation of scholars working on literature, film,
and performance as well as on the material culture,
cultural studies, politics, ethics, and religion. We
seek papers on the following topics:

Presentation Topics:

I. Memory in/as Objects: Material Culture

-circulation of objects: e.g., flea markets with their
promotion and circulation of things post-German in
Polish culture (including Hitleriana)
-collecting: the culture and ethics of private and
institutional collecting
-co-habitation: “things post-German” in Polish homes

2. Memory as Representation: Literature, Film,
Photography, Theater, Performance

- how do artists use appeals to memory/post-memory to
position themselves and their work at various moments
in the postwar period?
-artistic memories and artistic post-memories
(including artistic dialogues, e.g., Gunter Grass with
Stefan Chwin and Pawel Huelle)
-family albums (e.g., Christa Wolf)
-staging memory, re-creating the unknowable
-(post) memory and the imagination

3. Memory and Time

-what was at stake for German and Polish families in
assuring that certain constructions of memory were
passed on to subsequent generations?
-how do victims remember? How do their children and
grandchildren? How does the memory pass through
generations? How does the family story translate into
the public sphere?
-how do the survivors’ children create their
post-memory (e.g., how do they deal with the gaps in
the story)? How do they represent this post-memory?
-what are the tropes of this representation (e.g., the
notion of the “trace,” which is often applied to the
Gdansk school of prose)
-what are the dynamics of post-memory? What shapes it?
What creates it in the Polish/German context?

4. Memory and the City: The Creation of Space

-the positions of Gdansk, Szczecin, Kolobrzeg etc., on
the cultural maps of Poland and Germany
-the tourist industry; tourism as a sign/aspect of
-how has memory/post-memory been mobilized to promote
-the urban markers of memory and the identity of the
-imaginary cities (e.g., the re-creating of German
cities like Breslau in Polish mystery novels)

5. Memory and Politics: Memory as Symbolic Capital

-memory and the state (e.g., the institutionalization
of memory and identity formation)
-memory as political capital (e.g., what’s at stake in
presenting a historical event as a foundational
-official memory vis-à-vis unofficial memories
(institutionalized memory vs. private memories)
-the sanitation of memory and its effects during
communism (Poland and DDR)
-divided memory in divided Germany
-memory and (post-)memory in the EU

6. Memory and Healing

-redemptive/compensatory/therapeutic narratives and
their function in Polish and German culture (including
political problems arising from redemptive narratives)
-the presence and preservation of “good memories;”
where are they?

7. Extending the Paradigm: Polish/German discourse and

-what is the theoretical/ethical/political/critical
value of the discussion of Polish-German issues; what
can other disciplines learn from this?
-what is the future of Polish/German memory?

Abstract submission

The conference organizers seek abstracts of 250 words
to be submitted electronically together with a resume
to: Justyna Beinek (, Bill
Johnston (, Kristin Kopp
(, and Joanna Nizynska
( The deadline for
submissions is September 1, 2006; the results of the
review process will be announced by October 1, 2006.

Organizing committee:

Prof. Justyna Beinek, Indiana University (conference
Prof. Bill Johnston, Indiana University
Prof. Kristin Kopp, University of Missouri, Columbia
Prof. Joanna Nizynska, Harvard University

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Received on Sat May 27 2006 - 13:27:13 EDT

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