‘The work of memory’? Historical thinking and education in France

The Australian Centre for Public History presents

SEMINAR: ‘The work of memory’? Historical thinking and education in France

Tuesday 12th June 4.30-6pm UTS, Sydney
Building 10, Level 14, Rm 201

Alexandre Dessingué (Stavanger University Norway)

Through his notion about ‘the work of memory’, Paul Ricoeur expresses the desire to make our relationship to the past an active, even a problematic one, and not to be the passive spectator that many commemorations encourage. The problem is not simply to regret that middle school or high school students are entirely absent from ceremonies commemorating May 8 or November 11. The real question is the one of the meaning to be given to past events. How can the past be perceived as a resource for the present and the future? What is the purpose of history and history teaching?

The city of Dunkirk and its inhabitants in Northern France have always been at the crossroads of Europe and for this reason were hard hit by both World Wars. In this presentation, we will have a closer look at firsthand accounts of city nursing home residents and ask with them how memories work, what they tell us about our relation we make with the past and why we should consider individual and collective memories as an important part of a critical and active work on/with history?

Alexandre Dessingué is Professor of Literacy Studies and History Education at the University of Stavanger, Norway. His research interests focus on cultural and collective memory, cultural representations of WW1, WW2, the Holocaust and of the colonial period, literary and memory theory, critical literacy/awareness and history education. He has published several articles, books and book chapters in the field of cultural memory studies and cultural history. His last publications include a co-edited volume with Jay Winter Beyond Memory: Silence and the Aesthetics of Remembrance (2016) and the book chapters “Paul Ricoeur: Understanding the Past and Writing the Future” (Routledge, 2017) and “The Ethics of Memory” in My Heart of Darkness” (Verlag, 2017).


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