Institute of Archaeology



Pathways to post-conflict remembrance | Wed Dec 18 09:30:00 | Room 784

We are currently living in a time where past conflicts are lavishly commemorated, contemporary ones being followed on the world stage, while future ones dreaded with fear. Across the world, past and present conflicts and their heritages are being instrumentalized for the formation of national identities, as well as patriotic and nationalistic sentiments, and therefore holding a crucial role in ongoing shifts and changes of contemporary politics.During this session we seek papers from different social and historical contexts, which offer theoretical frameworks and/or case study approaches to various pathways of remembering and commemorating conflicts between 19th and 21st century, both in private and public domains.
Understanding memory as a contested process, we aim to examine the political, moral and ethical dynamics of post-conflict remembrance through institutional and individual efforts. The physicality/tangibility of remembrance through (for example) memorabilia, art, fashion, literature, memorials and monuments, private and public museum displays, often appears to have been the focus of various commemorative efforts and academic works. However, during this session we also invite papers exploring intangible aspects of remembrance through sound, music, oral histories and ethnographies. This will give us the opportunity to discuss and compare different disciplinary approaches and boundaries within the field of conflict memory. We are particularly interested in papers that explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Commemorations and politics
  • Ownership of the past
  • Commemoration and identity
  • Morality of remembrance
  • Physicality of commemoration
Session timetable
9:30 | Luisa Nienhaus, UCL Institute of Archaeology; Lisheng Zhang, UCL


9:45 | Ke Ye, UCL Institute of Archaeology

No monuments but a process: 70 years of retrieving looted artefacts

Post-conflict remembrance is normally communicated through monuments and ceremonies, but this case study deals with a process of restitution which perpetually acts as a vehicle for the articulation of memories and emotions.

From 1926, the Japanese archaeologists didaseries of excavations in Japanese-occupiednortheastChina and moved the archaeological finds to Japan for research and preservation. Part of themwasreturned to the puppet state Manchukuo and displayed astheglory of the Japanese imperialism. After the Second World War, the Republic of China made painstaking attempts to recover its moved cultural artefacts through negotiations with the General Headquarters of Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Although SCAP failed to locate most of the looted artefacts, hundreds of boxes of archaeological finds were returned. Ironically, soon after these objects left Japan, they were moved to Taiwan as the Republic of China was defeated in the Civil War in 1949. Since 1952 when the Republic of China in Taiwan stopped claiming further restitution, these artefacts remained silent for decades until recently their whereabouts started to be reinvestigated.

This paper studies how the concept of the “looted national history”, originally the concern of a small group of scholars, was pushed to the front and incorporated in the collective memory of the Sino-Japanese War and the split of the country throughthehistory.Also, how the recent investigationsmayserve as a reconciliation to the post-conflict memories?

10:00 | Hannah Wilson, Nottingham Trent University

The Material Memory of Sobibór Death Camp: Archaeology, Artefacts and Commemoration

In recent years, archaeology has arguably become one of the most relevant aspects within contemporary Holocaust and memory studies. In this proposed paper, I examine the impact of the archaeological findings at the site of the former Nazi Death camp Sobibór in Eastern Poland. I aim to explore the international materialisation of Sobibór through the representation and contextualisation of the artefacts in museum collections, exhibitions and media publications (the new memorial museum at the site of Sobibór is currently under construction).

I refer to the term ‘materialisation’ in this study to define the material objects and visual adaptations associated with the site of Sobibór: a part of history that has been devoid of physical evidence since the destruction of the camp by the SS. In this paper, I reconsider the ways in which artefacts relating to Sobibór and the biographies of its victims have been featured in exhibitions, museum collections, and other instances of public engagement since the end of the war. Moreover, the continuous unearthing of objects at the site of Sobibór has also led to further instances of worldwide commemoration, for instance in 2017, Stolperstein were established Frankfurt for Karoline Cohn, a victim at Sobibór who’s pendent was uncovered in the archaeological excavations in the previous year. Thus, I also explore the debates and ethics surrounding ownership of memory concerning the personalised artefacts discovered at Sobibór, as they are presented to the remaining family members of the victim.

10:15 | Xavier Rubio-Campillo, University of Edinburgh, School of History, Classics and Archaeology / Murphy’s Toast Games

Glorious and forgotten: the remembrance of air warfare in the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) has become a symbol of the resistance against fascism. The internal conflict quickly involved foreign governments (Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union) while thousands of volunteers across the globe joined the Second Republic and its fight against the far right. The victory of the “Nationalists” was followed by a period of intense repression as general Francisco Franco established a ruthless dictatorship that would continue until his death in 1975. Unlike other places the transition to a democratic government did not entail any new perspective on the war as it promoted a “pact of oblivion” to forget this traumatic past.

Francoism created an official discourse of the war that has not been contested until recent years: the conflict was necessary because the Republican government had succumbed to armed anarchist and communist militias. This narrative did not fit the evidence as the Republican army was comparable to Franco’s forces in terms of equipment and performance; for this reason the fascist regime made an active effort to erase the memory of the Republican army and particularly of its most modern component: the “Glorious” Air Force.

This work describes a long-term initiative aimed at rediscovering the Republican Air Force through archaeological heritage. The project integrated a diversity of research, outreach and memorialisation activities as a means to restore the memory of the people that formed this military corps. We discuss here how heritage-based approaches can provide new narratives to forgotten aspects of a conflicted recent past.

10:30 | Georgia Andreou, University of Southampton

Archaeology? The materiality of post-1963 Cyprus

Post-1963 material evidence from Cyprus inevitably lies at the intersection of political history and recent memory. The 1963-1964 and 1967 periods of inter-communal violence, the military invasion of 1974, and the separate and largely isolated development of the northern (Turkish-Cypriot) and southern (Greek-Cypriot) parts of the island have produced an array of material evidence that is at the forefront of memory politics surrounding the “Cyprus dispute”. Although controversial museum collections and conflicting commemoration practices have been studied in the context of history, political science and urban studies, their examination from an archaeological perspective has been limited and remains peripheral. Emphasis has been placed primarily on the challenges of heritage preservation in occupied areas and the buffer zone and more recently on the recovery of the remains of missing people. At the same time, abandoned villages feature in case studies for experimental archaeology projects and provide samples for dendrochronological sequences.

With the opening of the “border” in 2003, the conceptualisation of materiality of the division of Cyprus has developed a new facet; Nicosia’s dividing wall has become the centre of activist and artistic movements supporting reconciliation. In the context of these recent developments, this paper discusses the timing and potential for, as well as the ethical dimensions of a contemporary archaeology of the “Cyprus dispute”. Emphasis is placed on the role of archaeologists as active agents in the reconstruction of shared memory.

10:45 | Session organisers


11:00 | BREAK
11:30 | Ryan Nolan, University College Dublin

Excluding the North? Marginalised memory and the legacies of conflict in the Centenary Commemorations of the 1916 Rising in Ireland

In this paper I will explore the state commemorative events to celebrate the hundred-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Ireland. This paper will highlight the focus throughout the commemorative campaign of constructing of inclusivity in the history of the Easter Rising. However, this paper argues that the 2016 commemorations were scared by the past legacies of violence, explicitly The Troubles in Northern Ireland, which cast a long shadow on the commemorative programme. In this following paper I will explore discourse strategies employed by Irish political elites which systemically construct themes of inclusivity, diversity and equality in representing 1916 (particularly in relation to the role of women) whilst routinely excluding a movement and ideology that was central the Rising, armed Republicanism. This paper will explore the juxtaposition of the several attempts by elites to highlight the inclusive elements of the commemorations, whilst systematically excluding Northern Ireland and armed republicanism from the narrative of 1916.

This paper will detail the intricate role that the present has on the ‘retelling’ of the story of 1916, (or 2016 in 1916). It will show link the focus on diversity and inclusion in the commemorative narrative to recent develops in Ireland’s social and political sphere whilst also exploring the legacies of The Troubles of Northern Ireland on how 1916 is remembered. This paper attempts to illuminate the inherit contradictions in these commemorative speeches specifically in relation to what, (or more accurately who) is included in the narrative, and what is forgotten, excluded and marginalised.

11:45 | Susan Shay, University of Cambridge

Courtroom Narrative Construction as a Tool for Indigenous Empowerment: Confronting the Authorized Past through Legal Land Claims

One of the places where the past is continually argued is in the courtroom. For Indigenous peoples undergoing processes of decolonization, the court provides an opportunity for them to challenge authorized versions of the past in efforts to achieve greater forms of Indigenous political recognition and sovereignty. The Indigenous sovereignty sought is often based on historic land and resource rights, rights held before the arrival of Western settlers. However, Indigenous legal challenges have inherent difficulties, for Native peoples have to overcome social, educational, communal and epistemological challenges to build, support and defend their legal narratives. Their efforts are also complicated by historic trauma, decades of subjugation and discrimination, and dislocation from their cultural, based in the relationship with lost ancestral lands and resources. Nonetheless, recent research examining three contemporary Native Hawaiian lawsuits demonstrates that not only are the legal outcomes of the court cases important for Indigenous empowerment, but so are the processes of court narrative investigation, construction, presentation and defence. This paper will discuss how the efforts needed to develop and support and Indigenous legal narrative in Hawai’i, including leadership in decision-making, archival research on culture and heritage, court performance, and public displays of support, were part of a communal effort that served to provide a new public voice, took back the historical record, and restored pride in an indigenous identity.

12:00 | Iida Käyhkö, Royal Holloway, University of London

‘Don’t mourn, organise!’: remembrance and political activism

Political activists and movements frequently use engagement with specific practices of remembrance as a form of movement-building. My research with political activists in London focuses on unofficial commemorations of protest found in domestic environments and community spaces, and on the wider materialities of recent and contemporary political movements. I examine cultures of radical left-wing heritage as essential building blocks of politically contentious identities and communities — and as a way of managing individual and collective trauma in the face of violent conflict with the state. Commemorations of specific political movements are a way of reclaiming marginalised pasts, often with the aim of disrupting nationalistic historical narratives. Forms of left-wing remembrance — alternately of family histories, individual autobiographies or of spatially or temporally distant movements — create a slight inversion of Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ (1983), united by shared heritages and ideological aims rather than national or geographic unity. I outline the ways in which these connections are narrated, materialised and how they engender resilience, hopefulness and a sense of responsibility in the individuals and communities in question. Further, I suggest that these forms of remembrance play a significant role in the management of traumatic experiences such as state surveillance, arrests and tear gassing. Throughout, commemoration emerges simultaneously as a moral duty and as an affective need, and becomes materialised in a disparate archive of protest dotted across the city.

12:15 | Helia Marçal, Independent Researcher / Tate, London

Remembering conflict: performance art, participation, and intergenerational transmission

Artists have always been interested in communicating complex cultural, political, and ethical issues. Performance art has been considered a privileged medium to engage in activist political actions. In which ways are memories of conflict, trauma, and activism embodied in performance?

This article draws on the project REACTING TO TIME: The Portuguese in Performance, created by the choreographer Vania Rovisco in 2015, to discuss some of the ways performance brings memories to the fore and, how memories of conflict are performed through bodies.

REACTING TO TIME re-enacts Portuguese performance artworks created before the emergence of new dance practices in the 1990s. Rovisco engages in a process of transmission, from living artist’s bodies to her own, and then from her body to the body-archives of participants. Each transmission process ends with a public performance that initiates another process of transmission – from the bodies of participants to the bodies of publics that are part of the public.

The presentation will detail an in-depth study of the process and its results in transmitting memories of conflict through the analysis of the transmission process of the artwork Identificacíon, created by the artist Manoel Barbosa in 1975 in Barcelona, in the midst of the Portuguese revolutionary process. The artwork rehearses the ambivalence of resistance and violence through lengthened moments of silence and endurance followed by striking movements and strident sounds. Accounts from participants, Rovisco, Barbosa, and members of the public will lead this discussion, highlighting the positioning of the bodies in the creation of living archives.

12:30 | Session organisers


13:00 | END