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Contesting the Collective Past: Exploring Testimony and Cultural Memory in Minority Research

Contesting the Collective Past: Exploring Testimony and Cultural Memory in Minority Research

8th Annual Minority Seminar


Contesting the Collective Past: Exploring Testimony and Cultural Memory in Minority Research

11 May 2023


Auditorium Armfelt, Arken, Åbo Akademi University, Tehtaankatu 2, 20500 Turku
Organised by Minority Research in collaboration with the departments of history and philosophy at Åbo Akademi University


The seminar explores the role of testimony and cultural memory for knowledge and understanding of minority positions in the humanities and social sciences. During the past three decades, cultural memory and testimony have become key concepts in almost all forms of progressive social and historical research. This development has given researchers access to the counter stories of dispossessed minorities – stories that can be used to challenge the hegemony narratives of the majority by exposing experiences that were previously either avoided or downright silenced. At the same time, and in direct opposition to such emancipatory projects, cultural memory and testimony serves currently also as a central resource for the revival of nationalist myths all over Europe. This raises questions, on the one hand, about how to separate between uses and abuses of cultural memory and testimony, and on the other hand about the role of appeals to ‘experience’ for knowledge and understanding in the humanities and social sciences. The seminar will have a dual focus: (i) general theoretical and methodological questions for minority research and (ii) the contestation of collective pasts in relation to specific minority positions in the Nordic countries.


10:00 Opening of the seminar by Vice-rector Gunilla Widén, Jonas Ahlskog

10:15 – 12:00: Keynote Session 1; Chaired by Holger Weiss

Siobhan Kattago, University of Tartu: The ethics of heritage in a fragile and burning world

Berber Bevernage, Ghent University: Does historical understanding lead to reconciliation? Some reflections on the uses of history in post-conflicts contexts


12:00 – 13:15 Lunch Break


13:15 – 14:15 Paper session; Chaired by Pamela Slotte

Lovisa Andén, The Arctic University of Norway: Forgotten testimonies: Swedish and Finnish-Swedish memoirs from the Gulag Archipelago

Jonas Ahlskog & Natan Elgabsi, Åbo Akademi University: Doing justice to experience: Avishai Margalit and the moral witness


14:15 – 14:45: Coffee Break


14:45 – 16:30 Keynote Session 2; Chaired by Olli Lagerspetz

Malin Thor Tureby, Malmö University: Memory, testimony and historical research. The role of survivors in memory culture and knowledge production

Wulf Kansteiner, Aarhus University: Memories that should not travel: From violent forgetting to forgetting violence


16:30: Wrap-up of the seminar

Please register before May 5 for the seminar (for purposes of catering) via the following link:
All talks are streamed online:
Passcode: annualsemi

Uppdaterad 10.5.2023