full name / name of organization:
CfP: (Contingent) Iterations. Performative Correspondences of Memory and
Conference Organisers: Sabine Lucia Müller (Berlin), Anja Schwarz (Berlin)
Date, Place: 03.-04.11.2006, Freie Universitaet Berlin
Deadline: 22.05.2006/ 09.10.2006
Over the past 15 years, ‘Memory’, ‘Commemoration’, and ‘Forgetting’ have
become vital concepts in the humanities. They have been discussed from
national as well as transnational perspectives across a wide range of
disciplines. In roughly the same time span, the notion of ‘Gender’ has
received similarly augmented interdisciplinary attention, eventually leading
to the concept’s academic institutionalisation in a number of countries.
However, possible analogies between ‘memory’ and ‘gender studies’ are not
exhausted by such institutional parallels: the notion of performativity –
central to contemporary discussions of gender – provides a perspective on
the construction of social identities which can be made equally productive
for the study of collective and/or cultural memory. This conference
therefore seeks to bring together studies of memory and gender under the
shared theoretical framework of performativity. It is hoped that from this
perspective, analogies in the theorisation of memory and gender will both
become apparent and prove productive for the future conceptualisation of
Performative ‘correspondences’ of Gender and Memory:
Judith Butler’s 1990 publication Gender Trouble polarised Gender Studies in
the 1990s. Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s writings, Butler conceptualises
the subject and its gender identity as an effect of precisely those
discourses which presuppose its existence. In spite of this
anti-essentialist stance however, her approach also runs counter to those
varieties of constructivism which regard gender as nothing but an arbitrary
effect of singular performative acts. Instead, Butler theorises gender
identity as the outcome of reiterated practices which, rather than
predetermining the subject, confer onto the subject a position from which
its actions become socially legible.
Contemporary studies of memory(-politics) have likewise posited the
importance of iterative practices for commemorative acts. The notion of
memory, introduced to the humanities through the work of Warburg, Halbwachs,
Nora and Jan and Aleida Assmann amongst others, is concerned with the
construction of (collective) identities through memory practices. These
share a number of characteristics with Butler’s notion of gender as the
product of reiterated performances:
a) Memory is no longer conceptualised as the activity of autarchic subjects.
Rather, the identity of remembering subjects is produced through/in
commemorative acts which (always already) presuppose their existence.
b) Collective memories depend upon continual reiterations in order to attain
formative social relevance.
c) These repetitions are not necessarily (always already) felicitous and
identical with one another but rather to be conceptualised as
re-constructions in specific contexts.
d) Both performative acts of memory and constructions of gender resort to a
theoretically infinite archive of possible (commemorative and
gender-productive) operations. Only a limited number of these can be made
productive in the respective context shaped by formations of
Envisioning the functioning of memory and gender as analogously performative
processes opens up a number of inventive questions on possible relationships
between the two concepts:
- In which ways do specific politics of memory and commemoration contribute
to the perpetuation of social structures favouring specific gender
- How can theories of gender be applied or expanded to a critique of the
politics of history and memory?
- Which possibilities and conditions for the representation of gender and
memory can be defined?
- In this context, what would be the significance of the materiality of
bodies and places?
- Which options for as well as which limitations of agency may be outlined
by theorising both gender and memory as performative?
- How can we describe the relation of individual, gendered memory and
self-fashioning to collective acts of memory, commemoration and subject
constitution? Which limitations might acts of memory impose on the creation
of the gendered subject? And, vice versa, how may individual subjects
possibly be involved in regulating acts of memory, as a result of their
gendering and the range of identificatory positions available to them?
In pursuing this approach, the conference will explore the structural
analogy of current theorisations of gender and memory, assessing both its
potential and its limitations. Its main interest, therefore, lies neither in
a historical reconstruction of gender nor in providing a corrective to
historiographic perspectives on gender identities.
The interdisciplinary workshop is designed to initiate and facilitate an
exchange on these and similar questions, particularly on a PhD and post-doc
level. Speakers from abroad may be partly reimbursed (travel costs,
accommodation fees) where applicable, not exceeding an amount of € 200. An
essay collection based on the workshop will be published in 2007.
Proposals for papers (c. 500 words) are due 22 May 2006. Please enclose a
brief academic CV. Accepted papers should be completed by 9 October 2006.
They will be circulated, to speakers only, on that date, so as to intensify
Please send any inquiries and abstracts via email to both organisers.
Sabine Lucia Mueller
Institut für Englische Philologie
Freie Universitaet Berlin
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Received on Fri Mar 31 2006 - 07:08:19 EST