The things we debate and create to remember and contest histories of systemic violence and terror spill out into classrooms, city centers, and out-of-the-way riverbanks. They also inform how we choose to re-present and memorialize military conflicts, atrocities, and freedom struggles at concentration and slave-labor camps, on marked or unmarked battlegrounds, at sites of conscience, in museums, and on walking tours. What language/s do we speak to commemorate, as well as what word-choices within these languages do we select?

Taking the struggles against white supremacy in the U.S. South and anti-Semitism in Germany as points of departure, this working group will explore how and why artists, writers, filmmakers, curators, and public historians commemorate or decide to keep silent about aspects of our collective past. In our meetings, we will examine the impact of commemoration on present-day policies and cultural debates in the United States and Germany over the last two decades.

Some of the priorities of our working group will include:

  • Sensory histories of commemorative culture and practice;
  • Public art, debates on place names, commemorative cultures, including architecture, public lectures, radio recordings, television broadcasts, dance, painting, photography, documentary art forms, and tourism;
  • Race, gender, and sexuality; disability; postcolonial and decolonial discourses; environmental justice movements;
  • Storytelling across media and approaches to teaching commemorative culture;
  • Participatory critical social practice that includes visual artists, business owners, musicians, poets, politicians, religious leaders, urban planners, community historians and memory keepers, and other community leaders.


Wesley Hogan
Research Professor, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute

Vance Byrd
Humanities Unbounded Visiting Faculty Fellow