Aleida Assmann: Film and Lecture (Oct 28 & 29)

Circulating Memory events with Aleida Assmann (University of Konstanz, Germany)  — Film Screening and Lecture

Film Screening — US Premiere!: 10/28, 5-7pm, Dwinelle B-4

Anfang aus dem Ende: Die Flakhelfergeneration (Beginning out of an Ending)

2013, documentary, 85 min, directed by Aleida Assmann, in German with English subtitles, followed by discussion

The “Flak”-generation is the shortest historical generation of the 20th century. It refers to the German cohorts of 1926-29 that were drafted from their school desks to help air defense (Flak) in the Second World War. This generation grew up in Hitler’s Third Reich and, after 1945, had the chance to start a new life. For a long time, they kept their memories locked up inside. Only now, after almost 70 years, many of them are confronting their past. What can we learn from these historical witnesses who might stand in as an emblem for Germany as a whole: “beginning out of an ending?”  The documentary is based on fifteen video interviews including male and female voices.  It differs from other films on this topic in its emphasis on the dynamics of remembering, acts of evaluation and personal reflections. It sketches a portrait of this generation as its members tell a common story from a variety of perspectives.

Lecture: 10/29, 5-7pm, 3335 Dwinelle

“From Collective Violence to a Common Future: Four Models for Dealing with a Traumatic Past”

Since the end of the Second World War, we have witnessed different memory policies in dealing with a traumatic past. The first, “dialogic forgetting,” a very old policy dating back to antiquity, was practiced especially after civil wars. The opposite form, “perpetual culture of remembrance,” is a historical novelty that took center stage only four decades after the Holocaust. A third model was introduced in the early 1990s with the Truth and Reconciliation commissions in South Africa, following the principle “to remember to overcome.” There is yet a fourth model of “dialogic remembering,” which applies to different nations that are entangled in a history of excessive violence; they mutually acknowledge their responsibility for each other’s suffering and respect the memory of their victims.  This last model is not yet a practiced reality but could potentially help overcome some of the memory clashes in Europe and elsewhere.

Aleida Assmann studied English literature and Egyptology at the universities of Heidelberg and Tübingen. Since 1993 she has held the chair of English Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Between 2000 and 2007 she taught as a guest professor at the universities Rice, Princeton, Yale, Chicago and Vienna. She received an Honorary Degree from the University of Oslo (2008) and the Max Planck Research Award in 2009, which helped her to establish the research group “History and Memory.” Her main areas of research are historical anthropology, history of media, history and theory of reading and writing, and cultural memory, with special emphasis on the Holocaust and trauma.

Publications in English: Memory in a Global Age. Discourses, Practices and Trajectories (ed. with Sebastian Conrad, 2010), Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives (2012), Memory and Political Change (ed. with Linda Shortt, 2012), Introduction to Cultural Studies: Topics, Concepts, Issues (2012).

Organized by Deniz Göktürk, Chair of the Department of German, University of California, Berkeley.

Co-sponsored by the Department of German, the Multicultural Germany Project, the Moving Europe Project, Cultural Forms in Circulation, the Institute for European Studies, the Institute for International Studies, and the Goethe-Institut San Francisco.

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