Mnemonics 2018 Keynote Lectures

Mnemonics 2018 Keynote Lectures

Please join us for the keynote lectures at this year’s Mnemonics summer school, which – unlike the rest of the programme – are open to the public. All lectures will be held in conference room 1 at the Irish College in Leuven (Janseniusstraat 1). Please contact if you have any questions.

9:45 – 11:00 a.m.

“Hiroshima’s Ghostly Shadows: Collective Memory, Trauma, and Scale”

Gabriele Schwab
University of California, Irvine


“Hiroshima’s Ghostly Shadows” is concerned with the legacy of Hiroshima and its collective memories. It opens with a reflection on the “shadowgraphs” of a human incinerated by atomic heat rays. Left on the stone steps of a Hiroshima bank, the shadow imprint of this human soon gained iconic value. Turning to poetry, novels, historical narratives and criticism that respond to this Hiroshima shadowgraph, I am analyzing its role in the collective memories that form the nuclear imaginary. As a memento mori of the work of nuclear death, the shadowgraph has been received as an allegory of Hiroshima’s nuclear trauma that also foreshadows the extinction of the human species. It thus presents both a ghostly memory of Hiroshima’s past catastrophe and a material embodiment of a perpetual haunting from the future left in its wake.

I end with reflections on the necessity to address the nuclear threat to the planetary ecology at two intertwined levels of scale: the deep time of the collective memory of millennial histories and the small scale of corporeal and cellular memories. Drawing on the so-called molecular turn in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, as well as Nikolas Rose and Mel Chen, I highlight the significance of molecular, cellular, animal, vegetable and nonhuman life in nuclear micropolitics, that is, following the mnemonic traces left in the material archives of bodies and the planet more generally.

Gabriele M. Schwab is Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California, Irvine. She holds appointments in the departments of Comparative Literature, Anthropology, English, and European Languages and Studies. She received her PhD in literary studies and critical theory at the University of Constance and a PhD in psychoanalysis from the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Heisenberg Fellowship, and her research interests range across critical theory, psychoanalysis, trauma studies, literature and anthropology, and 20th- and 21st-century comparative literatures. Her monographs in English include Subjects without Selves: Transitional Texts in Modern Fiction (Harvard UP, 1994); The Mirror and the Killer-Queen: Otherness in Literary Language (Indiana UP, 1996); Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma (Columbia UP, 2010); and Imaginary Ethnographies: Literature, Subjectivity, Culture (Columbia UP, 2012)Currently she is working on a book on nuclear necropolitics titled Radioactive Ghosts. 

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.

“Remembering Agency in the Anthropocene”

Rick Crownshaw
Goldsmiths, University of London


The so-called Anthropocene, our new geological epoch, not only describes the primacy of humanity’s geophysical agency in shaping the planet but the latent effects and afterlives of human activity that have haunted and disrupted modernity’s progress and which will continue to do so. The work of cultural memory can apprehend and remember the Anthropocene as a belated force and curate its geological inscriptions as the materials of the remembrance of this epochal transition and its causes. However, given that the Anthropocene unfolds across imbricated human and nonhuman times and spaces, forces and processes, materials and matter, and across multiple scales, it is incumbent on cultural memory studies to question how the distribution of agency might be remembered.

Such questions are sometimes lost amidst ecocritical demands for the recalibration of cultural representation when faced by the multiscalarity of the Anthropocene. More specifically, in the emergent and shifting assemblages that constitute the events of this epoch, what agency can be attributed to nonhuman things, and more so, to what extent do theoretical conceptualisations of agentic matter obscure cultural, political and ideological mediations of the Anthropocene, or even dehistoricise it?

Such are the concerns of recent scrutinies of new materialism (e.g., Malm; Povinelli), and, with those concerns in mind, this lecture will survey an array of American fictive, filmic and photo-textual responses to environmental catastrophe: the fiction of Richard Ford, Jesmyn Ward and Claire Vaye Watkins (drought, hurricane and flood); the documentary films of Noah Hutton (the social impact of oil extraction); and the landscape photography and architectural design work of Richard Misrach and Kate Orff (petrochemical contamination). These memory texts of the Anthropocene foreground questions of human and nonhuman agency and the matter of remembrance; as such, they afford this lecture critical opportunities to elicit a politics of memory from the memory of ecology.

Rick Crownshaw is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of The Afterlife of Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), as well as numerous articles on American literature, memory studies, and trauma studies. He is the editor of Transcultural Memory (Routledge, 2014) and a co-editor of The Future of Memory (Berghahn, 2010). He is currently finishing a monograph, Remembering the Anthropocene in Contemporary American Fiction, which focuses on, among other things, the potential of cultural memory and trauma studies in analysing literary narratives of climate change, extinction, pollution and toxicity, the resourcing of war, American petrocultures, and post-oil worlds. He is a co-editor, with Stef Craps, of a special issue of Studies in the Novel on climate change fiction. His next project is tentatively titled Filming the Anthropocene.

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.

“The Forgetting Conundrum”

Andrew Hoskins
University of Glasgow


This presentation offers forgetting as the defining mode of our relationship with the past, rather than as memory’s silent partner. To this end I firstly, treat forgetting holistically, as emergent through a connected ecology of individual, social and organisational domains; secondly, take digital media as the principal shaper of how and why individuals, societies and organisations forget; and thirdly, consider new interdisciplinary ways in which forgetting can be represented and understood.

Forgetting—its worth and possibility—is increasingly a conundrum. Forgetting must be avoided yet it is easy, it is essential yet impossible. It is precisely because there is an excess of the past made present—  societies have become increasingly swamped in connectivities and cultures of remembrance and haunted by all of the digital traces of self— that forgetting becomes urgent. The past seems bloated and yet our algorithmic present seems impossible to capture and preserve for use in the future.

I take as the heart of this conundrum digital infrastructures and cultures of participation fostering of new and unpredictable entanglements between humans, humans and machines, and machines and machines, ushering in paradoxical challenges of both forgetting and not being forgotten.

Andrew Hoskins is Interdisciplinary Research Professor in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow. His research connects multiple aspects of emergent digital society: media, memory, conflict, war, risk, security, and privacy. His latest books are: Trump’s Media War (Co-Edited with Catherine Happer and William Merrin, Palgrave Macmillan 2018); Digital Memory Studies: Media Pasts in Transition (Editor, Routledge 2018) and Risk and Hyperconnectivity: Media and Memories of Neoliberalism (with John Tulloch; OUP 2016).

Hoskins is founding editor-in-chief of the Sage journal Memory Studies and founding co-editor of the Palgrave Macmillan book series Memory Studies. His current research is for a book entitled Memory in the Head and in the Wild (with Amanda Barnier; OUP), exploring the challenges of interdisciplinarity in memory studies: Twitter: @andrewhoskins