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Emotions and Memory: Humiliation and Dignity in Asian, Australian and European Memories of Violence

Date: 12-13 November 2015
Time: 12:00 - 5:00pm
Venue: William Macmahon Ball Theatre, Old Arts Building 107, The University of Melbourne
Registrations: Hannah Loney (loneyh@unimelb.edu.au)

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  • Professor Antonia Finnane, Professor of Chinese History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  • Dr Kate McGregor, ARC Future Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  • Dr Julie Fedor, Lecturer in Modern European History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  • Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Professor of Australian Studies and History and Chair of the History Program in the in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, and Professor of Cultural Heritage in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning

This international workshop sets out to compare national practices of remembering violent pasts through a focus on the emotions linked to humiliation and dignity and the ways in which these are used for political and identity-making purposes.

Remembered experiences of humiliation, real and perceived, provide potent materials for bonding together communities. Isaiah Berlin (1970) famously described nationalism as a response to collective humiliation, and painful memories of humiliation are an especially powerful tool for building and shaping national identities. Emotional responses to humiliation play a crucial but understudied role in international relations (see Harkavy2000). Nazi Germany is the emblematic case of an aggressive response to perceived humiliation in defeat, but narratives of national humiliation are also especially prominent in China (Wang 2012), India (Chacko 2012), Serbia (Popov and Gojkovic 2000), Sri Lanka (DeVotta 2004), and elsewhere. In fact, it would be difficult to come up with a national tradition in which some remembered act of humiliation does not figure as a defining experience.

In response to experiences of violence and trauma the concept of dignity also frequently features as a way of framing the necessary restoration of the self and communities. In movements for redress such as the case of colonial violence in Indonesia and Malaysia (McGregor 2014 and Battang Kali 2010), former so-called ‘comfort women’ of the Japanese soldiers from World War Two (Morris Suzuki 2014) and victims of the 1965 anti-communist violence in Indonesia (Hatley 2012), the need to restore the dignity of those who died or suffered remains a central rallying point of activism.

The workshop will bring together a diverse interdisciplinary group of scholars specialising in different memory cultures across the globe. The primary objectives will be the production of an edited collection, the development of further collaborative links, and a plan to investigate future funding.

Image: Nanjing massacre, Amy Keus, Wikimedia Commons