Future Past: memory & imaginal politics in conflict and for conflicts

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
contact email: 

Future Past:

Memory and Imaginal Politics

In Conflicts and For Conflicts

Key note speaker: Professor Andrea Pető

Central European University

Amsterdam, 14th & 15th July 2020

When William Murray, Lieutenant Colonel in the Western Fronts (1914-1919) wrote:

“We ceased fighting today and I have seen the last shot fired… No more danger, no more wars

and no more mud and misery” he spoke of the future; the future that would be without

dangers, wars, mud and misery. He inscribed the future within possibilities that his present

offered to him. His future and present were entangled through the war that it was becoming

his past.

Future, present and past don’t stand by themselves anymore when an armed conflict

occurs or an ideological force interrupts the political life of a society. The fury of conflict or

the chaos of revolution and any radical change unstructure the temporal chronology and

consequently, future, present and past fall entangled into each other. Especially, a past that

it has witnessed armed conflicts, it swallows future and fills it with memories, nostalgia,

narratives and images to produce a future past.

A future past offers a vision for the time-yet-to-come; a vision for a future speculated

and awaited. This vision is crafted and guided by memories, histories and narratives of past

and they accordingly shape future to act as the mirror of past. Such a future shapes and

configures social imaginaries, individual desires and national politics located in a present. The

configuration of imaginaries, desires and politics occur through a set of ideologies, ideas and

value systems that were already fixed and prescribed in past.

A future past, as the entanglement of past and future, is expressed through public

memories and collective commemorations which are filled by sociocultural symbols and

signifiers. These symbols and signifiers are neither fully constructed by political and cultural

authorities (states, supranational institution, parastatal organizations and intelligentsia) nor

completely produced organically in everyday social interactions. They emerge inbetween

imaginaries prescribed by authorities, institutionalized heritage politics and imaginations.

Therefore, by following what Chiara Bottici (2014) called ‘imaginal’, we invite

academics and curious minds to move beyond ‘social imaginaries’ (Tylor 2003) and

imaginations of ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 1983) to locate the imaginal politics which

administers future past, networks of power and its mnemonic expressions.

The notion of imaginal permits us to distinguish between imagination as a faculty of

individuals and imaginary that is suggested as a mode of perpetuation of visual

representations, depictions and contents. We stress on imaginal politics to highlight

interlinked relationships between production, perpetuation and appropriation of memories

and histories.

We are interested in debates and presentations on how future past is produced by

authorities, state and propaganda machinery and accordingly, how it is received and

appropriated by mnemonic communities and individuals. Therefore, we propose two central

questions of the conference:

• first, what are materials (visual or otherwise), spaces and narratives (verbal or

otherwise) that facilitate the imaginal politics of future past in conflicts and

• second, how a future past is used for conflicts.

We invite papers that trace memory and commemoration within imaginal politics to highlight

how future past emerges, circulates and mobilizes. The conference focuses on future past

under authoritarian regimes across the world however, the papers with focus on the Middle

East, Central Asia and Caucasus are given priority. The programme will include discussion

panels focusing on the following areas:

- State/organizational/institutional sponsored propaganda,

- media framing (print, broadcast and internet),

- photography and graphic design,

- commemorative events and memorial sites,

- state/institution sponsored publications and memoirs.

Please submit an abstract, not exceeding 500 words by 15th April 2020 along 100 words bionote

to Younes Saramifar via y.saramifar@vu.nl. The conference invites social scientists,

experienced practitioners, scholars and researcher as well as postgraduate students who are

in advance stages of their PhDs.

Bursary: a very limited bursary is available for emerging scholars from universities in the

global south and postgraduate students. This bursary will be given on competitive bases and

we encourage participants to seek other financial resources. Please, mention in your abstract

if you are interested to be considered for the bursary.

CFP (Conference), Memory Studies, Cultural memory, Memory and Identity, Civil War and

Reconstruction, conflict, future studies, Past Future, historical memory, time and temporality,

Political imagination, Imaginal, politics of memory, imagined communities