Multidirectional Memories, Implicated Subjects, and the Possibilities of Art—a Lecture and Conversation with Michael Rothberg

November 14, 2020
12 pm (CST)
In Conversation series, online

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In this lecture and conversation Michael Rothberg, the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies and professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, will discuss his books Multidirectional Memory and The Implicated Subject with a focus on contemporary artworks and possibilities for critical curatorial practices in museums.

These globally influential books explore the productive relationship among such different yet related histories and legacies of violence as the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid, and colonialism and their confrontations in the public sphere. Rothberg argues that we need to break from dichotomous thinking about victims and perpetrators, advocating instead for an understanding of ourselves as implicated subjects who inherit histories of violence and structures of inequality. In his lecture Rothberg will address these issues through the work of two renowned artists, William Kentridge and Hito Steyerl. Both the South African artist Kentridge and the German artist Steyerl use diverse aesthetic mediums to explore multidirectional histories and to reflect critically on artists’ and the art world’s implication in injustice.

Following the lecture Rothberg will join Washington University professors Anika Walke (history) and Geoff Ward (African and African-American Studies) in conversation about Memory for the Future, a Washington University initiative that combines critical memory studies with curatorial and public education projects. In partnership with museums, archives, and commemorative projects, this initiative will facilitate reparative and multidirectional memorial practices in St. Louis.

This program is a collaboration among the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Center for the Humanities at Washington University, and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity.

In Conversation

“In Conversation” is a series of live online talks with artists, art historians, and scholars, exploring the intersections of art, history, and contemporary life. Bring your own questions and insights to these lively discussions from wherever you are.

About the speaker

Michael Rothberg is the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies and professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work has been published in such journals as American Literary History, Critical Inquiry, Cultural Critique, History and Memory, New German Critique, and PMLA, and has been translated into French, German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. His latest book is The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (2019), published by Stanford University Press as part of its “Cultural Memory in the Present” series. He is also the author of Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009) and Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000). He has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003; with Neil Levi) as well as special issues in the journals Criticism, Interventions, Occasion, and Yale French Studies. With Yasemin Yildiz, he is currently completing Inheritance Trouble: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance, which is under contract with Fordham University Press.

Geoff Ward, professor in the Department of African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences.

Anika Walke, associate professor in the Arts & Sciences departments of History; Women, Gender, and SexualityStudies; and International and Area Studies.

Image credit

Hito Steyerl, still from Abstract, 2012. Two-channel HD video with sound, 7:30 min. Image CC 4.0 Hito Steyerl; courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, and Esther Schipper, Berlin.