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Second Annual Mosse Lecture by Michael Rothberg: Memory Wars and Memory Work

General Programming

dateMarch 28, 2024 timeThursday, 6:00pm EDT location Deutsches Haus, Columbia University
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Heyman Fellows Program
  • Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
  • European Institute
  • Institute for Comparative Literature and Society
  • University Seminar on Cultural Memory
  • Department of Germanic Languages
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required.
People marching through the snow with shovels

Second Annual Mosse Lecture by Michael Rothberg
"Memory Wars and Memory Work: Relational Remembrance in Pınar Öğrenci's film Aşît [The Avalanche]" with respondent Sonali Thakkar

During the last few years, a series of acrimonious debates has taken place in Germany about Holocaust memory, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine. In one of the most visible of those disputes, an enormous scandal rocked the 2022 Documenta 15 international art exhibit in Kassel. Set against the backdrop of Documenta, this lecture will review the recent memory wars in Germany and then turn to a work that was displayed at Documenta but was not part of the controversy swirling around the exhibit: Pınar Öğrenci's film Aşît [The Avalanche]. This film, which concerns the tangled histories of violence directed against Armenians and Kurds in a remote town in eastern Turkey, does not address the terms of the German debate directly. However, as Rothberg will argue, in weaving together multiple histories of exile, trauma, and catastrophe, Aşît [The Avalanche] offers a mode of relational remembrance that suggests alternative possibilities for coming to terms with the past in contemporary Germany—and beyond.

Following his lecture, Rothberg will be joined in conversation by Sonali Thakkar of New York University, whose work focuses on postcolonial literature and theory and anticolonial thought and politics. A reception will conclude the evening.


Michael Rothberg is Chair of the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies. Professor Rothberg is the author of three influential books: The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (2019), Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009), and Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000).

Sonali Thakkar's research and teaching are animated by an interest in the ways that anticolonial history and postcolonial culture are entangled with key developments in mid-to-late 20th-century political and social scientific thought, including the institutionalization of the postwar human rights regime; the development of antiracism as a liberal universalism; and transformations in the scientific and social scientific definition of race.

About the Lecture

Each year the annual Mosse Lecture, presented by the Columbia Department of Germanic Languages, seeks to honor the legacy of the progressive Mosse publishing house founded by Rudolf Mosse, which helped to shape the democratic public sphere during the German Weimar Republic. Descendants of the Mosse Family include Professor George L Mosse, the acclaimed historian of fascism, Dr. Hilde L. Mosse, a distinguished child psychiatrist who worked with Harlem children suffering from reading disabilities, Hans Strauch, an accomplished architect, and Roger Strauch, a successful high technology entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Hans and Roger co-lead The Mosse Foundation's efforts to sustain and promote the Mosse Family's philanthropic legacy to support distinguished educational, research, health, and arts institutions and progressive causes.