Eastern Europe in Contemporary Cultural Memory

Seminar, 17 November 2011.

Room 21.0.47 (building 21, ground floor, room 47), University of Copenhagen, Amager Campus.

The Eastern half of Europe, starting right east of Denmark, has often been ‘the Other half’ in the cultural and political mapping of the continent. For decades during the Cold War the countries were hidden behind an Iron Curtain flanked by nuclear missiles. This created different histories and memories of a formative period of modern history. Twenty years after the fall of communism the process and exchange of memory is still going on, taking place in many cultural forms, discussions and practices.
This is reflected in a number of academic fields where Eastern Europe in a cultural memory perspective is the object of study. The recognition of this, including our own projects, is our incitement to gather this seminar. The seminar is interdisciplinary and focuses on the cultural forms of memory culture. It is open to all interested participants.

Arranged by Martin Baake-Hansen and Kristian Handberg, PhD-students, University of Copenhagen


10.00: Introduction


10.15: Literature and war


Kasper Green Krejberg:
As far as the eye can see:
Eastern Europe as an Endless Battlefield in Jonathan Littell's 'The Kindly Ones' (2006) and Elim Klimovs 'Come and See' (1985).

Martin Baake-Hansen:
Back in Budapest. Communist Hungary in the work of Imre Kertész
In the life and work of Imre Kertész liberation from the nazi concentration camps does not mean freedom, it means being captured in communist Hungary. This paper argues that Kertész’ work is essentially a critique of totalitarianism.

11.15: Coffee break

11.30: Memorials and photography

Mette Sandbye:
Here’s Another Version of the Past
Appropriating old family photographs became a new, internationally acclaimed trend in post-Soviet art in the 1990s as a strategy to renegotiate the past and connect the present with a hitherto hidden kind of “vernacular memory”. The talk focuses on works by Ilya Kabakov, Igor Savchenko and Boris Michailov.

Roxana Bedrule:
Imagined Eastern Europe
Drawing on Larry Wolff's account of the invention of Eastern Europe being a project of philosophical and geographical synthesis carried out as early as the 18th century, I will address in my talk the frantic archival drive that underlies today's various representations of Eastern Europe as "post-communist", emphasizing the continuation of the process of invention throughout dictatorial regimes and their afterlife. My presentation will revolve around photographic records from the secret services' archives.

Lene Otto:
Creating ’memoryscapes’. Museums, Materiality, and the Memory of Communism
Memoryscapes are created on sights or scenes where past human rights abuse, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide was committed. They are physical spaces for mourning, and in some cases healing, for victims and survivors. This contemporary, global museological practice is related to the idea that efforts to collectively remember past human rights abuse and atrocities can contribute to a more democratic, peaceful, and just future. Thus scenes of crime transformed to public memorials have become sites of conscience and tools of human rights education in the broadest sense, where the affective power of the space is considered. Drawing on examples from post-conflict memorial museums in Eastern Europe, I examine the importance of space and material effects in the museum experience.

13.00: Lunch

14.00: Memory in popular culture

Sune Bechmann Pedersen:
The Aesthetics of a Peaceful Revolution: Strategies for Representing “1989” in Czech and German Cinema
The peaceful revolutions of 1989 have entered the history books as pivotal events, but how are they remembered cinematically? In this presentation, I analyse how the peaceful revolutions in East Germany and Czechoslovakia have been explored on film in the past two decades.

Kristian Handberg:
The Past of the Others – Ostalgie in Western Retro Culture
The current retro wave is practicing an intensive cultivation of the everyday and popular culture of the pre-1989 Eastern Europe. The talk will analyze this entertainment focused use of a troubled past as based on a parallel story of modernity that give experience of distance and similarities.
15.30: Coffee break

15.45: Artist talk with Niels Barfoed

upon his recent book “Tomis A. Mit hemmelige liv bag Jerntæppet”.

17.00: Closing reception

With Polish jazz-funk, Hungarian wine and light snacks


Kristian Handberg: handberg@hum.ku.dk

Martin Baake-Hansen: mbh@hum.ku.dk

The seminar is accredited as a PhD course by the PhD school at the Faculty of the Humanities, University of Copenhagen. In order to obtain a certificate of participation you must, if you have not already done so, register with the organizers. The  seminar merits 0,3 ECTS without presentation and 1,8 ECTS for those presenting.