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  • Institute for the Study of Human Rights
  • The Harriman Institute
  • Center for Israel and Jewish Studies
  • Columbia University Seminar on History, Redress and Reconciliation
  • Ariella Lang
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated

Memory Laws: Criminalizing Historical Narrative

October 27-28, 2017

Since the 1980s, interest in politically and legally shaping public memory regarding the Holocaust and other crimes perpetrated during the Second World War has been evident in a wide variety of arenas. One manifestation of the trend has been the increasing demand for the right to truth, which is purportedly a precondition to conflict resolution and policies of redress. At the same time, however, there is an increased recognition of the propensity for conflicting narratives about the past, particularly instrumentalized narratives about group identity and violent pasts, to escalate hostilities among nations, ethnicities and/or religions. These hostilities, anchored as they are in the collective memory and history of conflict, have become subject to extensive legislation, with the criminalization of statements about history and violent pasts becoming more commonplace.

This workshop will explore narratives that engage the memory of past violence in contemporary policies and the politics surrounding the legislation of historical memory. Given the central role that the Holocaust and other mass atrocities have played with regard to human rights concepts today, the memory laws that address these topics, as well as the role of history in conflict resolution, are also of interest. Finally, the workshop will pay particular attention to censorship and punitive measures that aim to constrain counter-narratives to established national identities and to freedom of expression.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Location: 1219 International Affairs Building

1:30pm-1:45pm, Welcome, Elazar Barkan, Columbia University

1:45pm-4:00pm, The Politics of History: Eastern Europe and the “Duty to Remember”
Chair: Agi Legutko, Columbia University
“Memory Laws and the Landscape in Poland Today,” Jan Gross, Princeton University
“Understanding ‘Memory Legislation’ in East Central Europe,” Eva Clarita Pettai, University of Jena
“Memory Laws in Eastern Europe,” Nikolay Koposov, Emory University
“A Certain Spirit of the Laws: Ukraine’s Nationalist Decommunization Laws of April 2015,” Tarik Amar, Columbia University

4:15pm-5:45pm, Memory Laws and Freedom of Expression: Comparative Legal Perspectives
Chair: Horst Fischer, Leiden University and Columbia University
“Memory Laws in One Country? Denial, Social Media and Dealing with Unease,” Robert Kahn, University of St. Thomas School of Law
“Some Observations on the Law, Historical Memory, and Mass Trauma,” Jonathan Bush, Columbia Law School

6:15pm, Reception at the Harriman Institute Atrium (12th floor, IAB)

Saturday, October 28, 2017 (second floor of The Heyman Center):

9:00am-11:00am, Criminalizing History in Rwanda, Latin America, and Japan
Chair: Andy Nathan, Columbia University
“Victors’ Memory: Criminalizing Remembrance in Rwanda and Sri Lanka,” Lars Waldorf, York Law School, University of York “Propaganda and the Criminalization of Truth in Guatemala,” Victoria Sanford, CUNY Graduate Center
“’Law’s Imperial Amnesia’,” Yukiko Koga, Hunter College

11:15am-1:15pm, History and Denialism in the Middle East
Chair: Khatchig Mouradian, Columbia University
“The Perils and Limits of Memory Laws: The Case of Israel’s ‘Nakba Law’ (2011),” Yifat Gutman, Ben Gurion University
“Historical Memory and Criminality in Contemporary Turkey,” Müge Göçek, University of Michigan
“Criminalizing Denial as a Form of Erasure: The Polish-Ukrainian-Israeli Triangle,” Omer Bartov, Brown University

1:15pm-2:15pm, Lunch

2:15pm-4:15pm, Present Pasts: Historical Violence and Contemporary Legal Narratives
Chair: Daniel Levy, Stony Brook University
“(De) Criminalizing the Past: Spain’s Memory Wars via its Memory Laws,” Stephanie Golob, Baruch College-CUNY Graduate Center
“French Memory Laws and the Crisis of the Republican model,” Henry Rousso, French National Center for Scientific Research
“History – the Continuation of War by Other Means,” Dubravka Stojanović, University of Belgrade

4:15-4:30-Concluding Remarks, Elazar Barkan, Columbia University

  • Tarik Amar Assistant Professor of History Columbia University
  • Omer Bartov John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Professor of German Studies Brown University
  • Fatma Müge Göçek Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies University of Michigan
  • Stephanie Golob Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Jan Tomasz Gross Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society, emeritus; Professor of History, emeritus Princeton University
  • Yifat Gutman Senior Lecturer Ben-Gurion University
  • Robert Khan Professor of Law University of St. Thomas
  • Yukiko Koga Assistant Professor of Anthropology Hunter College
  • Nikolay Koposov Visiting Professor, Russian Emory University
  • Eva-Clarita Pettai Senior Researcher at the Institute of Government and Politics University of Tartu
  • Henry Rousso Research Director French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)
  • Victoria Sanford Professor of Anthropology The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Dubravka Stojanovic Professor of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Lars Waldorf Senior Lecturer, Centre for Applied Human Rights York Law School