Recollecting memories ‘of others’: Postmemory and the textual translation of Trauma

06 December 2021, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Part of the Translation, Memory, Migration (UCL / SOAS Global Translation Lectures) series

This event is free.

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Kathryn Batchelor

In recent decades, the issue of the generational transmission of traumatic memory has become central in the field of Memory Studies. In particular, significant focus has been given to texts (e.g. documentaries, graphic novels, books) created by the sons, daughters and grandchildren of those people who have suffered or perpetrated a trauma (see, for example, the concept of “postmemory” by Hirsch 2008; 2012). In this talk, I deal with this kind of “memory affiliation” from a semiotic perspective, looking at its textual translations, that is, the way in which cultural artifacts are made after a process of generational meaning adaptation that provides a new interpretation of the past. In this respect, I consider the notion of translation in a broader and metaphorical sense, as a semiotic mechanism of recollection and redistribution, useful not only to communicate something that is otherwise unintelligible, but also to elaborate pain at different levels, both the personal and the cultural. The paper is informed by two research questions. First, what does it mean for a past event to be recounted by people who did not live it in the first person? Second, under which theoretical light is it possible to talk about sons, daughters and grandchildren as “implicated subject” (Rothberg 2019) and therefore “implicated translator” of the experience of their family members? Borrowing from Juri M. Lotman’s semiotic theory I answer these questions using a series of case studies which are emblematic for a reflection on the memories “of others”.

About the Speaker

Mario Panico
Mario Panico is post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bologna and member of “TraMe – Centre for the Semiotic Study of Cultural Memories”. He teaches Visual Semiotics at the European Institute of Design in Rome. He has published articles on the semiotic theory of memory and nostalgia, and the relationship between monumentality and conflict. He is currently working on his first book that will be titled Nostalgia, Spatial Consolation and Conflict Heritage (Palgrave Macmillan).