ACLA 2017 Seminar 'Remembering Transitions: Local Revisions, Global Crossings'

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA, Utrecht (6-9 July, 2017)

Proposed seminar for the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association at Utrecht, The Netherlands, July 6-9, 2017  


Ksenia Robbe, University of Leiden

Manuel Ghilarducci, University of Muenster

Remembering Transitions: Local Revisions, Global Crossings


Two decades ago ‘transition’ was the most popular term to describe the momentous change in Southern Europe and Latin America during the 1970-80s and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Southern Africa by the early 90s. While the homogenising scope and teleological imagination implied by this term have been extensively criticised, there is a dimension of ‘post-transitional’ memory cultures that has hardly been addressed. It concerns the problem of forgetting the everyday cultures of resistance that led to the dismantling of authoritarian regimes. Decades on, practices of reminiscing about the events of transitions have solidified into narratives of commemoration. Whether they present the events as a miracle of overcoming or fatal mistake, they do not provide insight into the messy historical processes that preceded and accompanied change. Circulated in discourses of media and education and used to underpin current regimes, they tell only one story, censoring debate on alternatives, forsaken opportunities, silences and complicities that came together with new freedoms.

Inquisitive memories of the transitions, however, are appearing in creative discourses and practices that facilitate re-imaginations of recent past. What stories do they tell? Whose subjectivities and agencies do they foreground? Do they deconstruct current histories or suggest another essentializing view of the past? This seminar aims to initiate exploration of representations that intervene into the established narratives. The method proposed for discussion is twofold: while scrutinising the emerging memories within the national/regional contexts, we seek to open these explorations to transregional comparisons. Given that the transitions were imagined as global events, we ask whether the incipient revisions of memory politics might result in new transnational narratives.

We welcome proposals for papers addressing memories of transition in various media and practices including narrative fiction and non-fiction, poetry, new media, cinema, documentary, theatre, performance, visual art, exhibitions, oral history project, etc. in countries/regions that experienced transition between 1970 and 1995. Comparative examinations are encouraged as well. Besides presenting and discussing individual papers, the workshops will make space for deliberating comparative perspectives.


Possible questions include:


  • Which media, modes of remembering and strategies of representation are employed by alternative recollections of transitions?
  • Do they draw on personal or collective archives?
  • Do these memories constitute counter-archives of transition? What political and ethical effects do they create?
  • Do they facilitate resistances to the status quo, including new protest movements?
  • Do they focus on local or global aspects of transition? Does it involve transnational memory practices?


Interested scholars at all stages of their career are invited to email a short outline of their proposed paper and a biographical sketch to Ksenia Robbe ( before September 1. Formal proposals must be submitted via the ACLA online submission portal which will be open between September 1 and September 23, 2016.

For more information on the ACLA Annual Meeting and the organisation of seminars, see