Contentious Commemoration: Between Memory and Activism A CISI/CIMS Public Lecture by Professor Ann Rigney (University of Utrecht)

Contentious Commemoration: Between Memory and Activism

Ann Rigney holds the chair of Comparative Literature at the University of Utrecht and is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) and of the Academia Europaea. Her research interests lie in the intersections between narrative, collective identity, and contestations of the past. She was recently awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe (REACT), 2019-2023.

In the last five years, there has been a notable turn in memory studies towards the role played by memory in activism. Where earlier work tended to concentrate on traumatic pasts, taken as negative models of things not to be repeated, Professor Rigney’s current project seeks to connect practices of memory to hope in the possibility of bringing about change.

Integrating recent work in both social movement studies and memory studies, Ann sets out a conceptual basis for analyzing how the memory of activism works as a mobilizing force in the present. Using a wide range of examples from the last two hundred years, she then goes on to reflect on the practice of ‘anniversaries’ as occasions where remembrance and contentious politics have regularly been brought together.


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