Technologies of remembering

PhD School at the Faculty of Humanities at University of Copenhagen

PhD seminar, New York, May 7 – 9, 2013
Co-organised with University of Trondheim and New York University

One of the consequences of the political upheavals of the last decades of the 20th century has been a dramatic revision of the modern notion of history. According to French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, the grand historical narratives of the modern world were collapsing; history was at its end, his American colleague, Francis Fukuyama, proclaimed. This forms the backdrop of German media historian Knut Ebeling’s suggestion that what became transparent in the late 20th century was in reality a transition that had been long on the way, the passage from a historical to an archaeological cultural paradigm. Whatever the qualities of such an analysis, or its powers of persuasion, the last twenty years have seen a remarkable growth in various forms of memory as well as archive studies, outside academia as well as within. The concern for the physical preservation of traces of a past that appear more and more precarious, have sharpened scholars’ and artists’ sensibilities for earlier attempts at, literally, saving the past, and figures such as Alfred Kahn, Aby Warburg, or even Walter Benjamin, come across as pioneers in the investigation of an up till now little acknowledged aspect of modernity.

In the current discussion, two quite different tendencies seems to define the field: On the one hand memory studies, as it is known from Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau or Pierre Nora (to name but a few of the figureheads), and on the other hand archive studies, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Kittler or Bernhard Stiegler. While memory studies are informed by a concern of the possible loss of the past, based upon the premise of an ethical obligation of the recent generations to preserve the memory of the suffering of previous generations, archive studies focus on the technologies and social practices that give form to and organize historical memory. Thus, memory studies in the last instance seem to find their reason of being in the responsibilities of the living to the dead, and thus eminently a discipline that calls for historical reflection, archive studies, in extremis, foregoes any claim of the truth values of introspection, for the benefit of analyzing the material practices and technologies that form the very conditions of possibilities for introspection to make any truth claims.

With the title “Technologies of remembering” we have brought together in one slightly paradoxical formula the materiality of technology and the spirituality of introspection, thus inviting the participants to reflect upon the current status of the archaeology of the modern world.

The seminar will combine invited guest lectures, presentations from participants and text workshops. When registering, please include a title and a 2-300 words abstract of a 20 mn. paper presentation.

ECTS credits: 2,3 for participation without paper/3,8 with paper.

For further information, please contact Frederik Tygstrup (