George Sansom Professor of History Carol Gluck linked the policy portions of her transnational research project, The Politics of Memory in Global Context, to the Columbia Global Policy Initiative in 2013. Conducted at Columbia under the Committee on Global Thought, this Franco-American collaboration addresses both the scholarly and political aspects of the formation and management of public memory in societies around the world. It brings together scholars in social science, neuroscience, and curators of historical museums from the US, Europe, East and South Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America to identify the commonalities and connections in contemporary memory politics and to develop appropriate and politically practical ways of dealing with national and social pasts, however dark or difficult. Pressing issues in the geopolitics of memory treated by the project include the current tensions among China, Korea, and Japan relating to the public memory of World War II; between the old and new members of the EU concerning conflicting memories of war and communism; within post-conflict societies in the aftermath of civil war; and others. The goal is twofold: to produce a more sophisticated analysis of the processes of memory politics, and to generate specific proposals for better political management of the divisive memories within and between countries, which too often let ill-considered views of the past block the path toward a better envisioned and constructive future.
Over the past few decades much of the heated politics of memory has taken place in civil society with governments and international organizations playing a largely reactive role. On the premise that memory politics within and between nations should be subject to the kind of policy deliberations accorded other political issues, the project is developing politically practical proposals for the management of public memory in specific national and international contexts. Building on five years of interdisciplinary, transnational research that takes into account the impact of global norms, domestic political conditions, and trends in public memory, the project focused in 2015-16 on 1) intervening in the events surrounding Japan’s “history problem” in East Asia during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War II; 2) holding eight workshops in Paris on public memory in audio-visual form; and 3) planning a new twelve-year study of memory of the terrorist attacks of 13 Nov. 2015 in Paris, in comparison with earlier studies of 9/11, ongoing studies of events in Brussels, and other places. The project has now received funding from the French government.
- Identify the commonalities and connections in contemporary memory politics.
- Develop appropriate and politically practical ways of dealing with national and social pasts.
- Produce a more sophisticated analysis of the processes of memory politics.
- Generate specific proposals for better political management of the divisive memories within and between countries.