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2018 Visiting Lecture Series – Memory

Memory is intensely personal and inherently social; rooted in the body, the mind, and the material world that we inhabit. Memory is the link that binds the present to the past, and—through the events and relationships we elect to remember or forget—ties the present to the future. Anthropologists and other social scientists approach memory from a variety of perspectives ranging from epigenetics—which studies the ways in which individual bodies encode lived experiences and pass them on to our progeny through heritable chemical changes in our DNA—to acts of social memory expressed in ritual, civic life, and the construction, maintenance, or erasure of commemorative objects and places. Acts of memorializing can be celebratory and inclusive, or exclusionary and violent.

Scholars characterize “memory work” as the “social practices that create memories, including recalling, reshaping, forgetting, inventing, coordinating and transmitting,” and as the scholarly analysis and understanding of these social practices (Mills and Walker 2008:4).

The speakers in this lecture series explore memory across the globe, from the ancient world to World War II, and at scales ranging from the molecular to the monumental. This year we will host nine speakers, including academics, museum professionals, and experts in traditional practices.

Past Visiting Lecture Series: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Visiting Lecture Series Fall 2018 Schedule

9/12 How shall we remember? Christy Coleman

CEO The American Civil War Museum, Historic Tredegar

The American Civil War is among the most written about subject in our nation’s history. Over 150 years since its end, Americans of every background grapple with not only its causes but also its enduring legacies. This is evident in symbols dotting the public landscape to imagery eliciting a range of emotional responses. How is it that a singular event could have such disparate meaning? What role do public and academic historians play in helping their communities navigate these issues?
10/3 Archaeology and the Topology of Erasure Dr. Charles Cobb, James E. Lockwood, Jr.,

Professor of Historical Archaeology, Florida Museum of Natural History

Deliberate strategies of social amnesia tend to be underplayed in studies of memory. The American Southeast provides a useful vantage point for exploring how acts of forgetting may be mediated through space. Beginning ca. 1000 C.E. Mississippian peoples continually reconstituted their histories through selective landscape practices of remembrance and erasure. With the arrival of European colonialism, their histories became increasingly subjected to a structural silence.
10/8 National Memory, Local Belonging: Accounting for U.S. Missing in Action of the Vietnam War Dr. Sarah Wagner

Associate Professor of Anthropology, George Washington University

While the U.S. military goes to great lengths to recover its service members Missing In Action from the major wars of the past century, the forensic scientific enterprise of “fullest possible accounting” stemmed from the contentious and prolonged war the United States waged in Southeast Asia. The acts of recovering remains and returning them to still grieving families invite us to consider the relationship between memory and belonging on both the national and local scale.
10/10 Cultural Memory, Native Voice and Representation Roger and Shawna Cain

Cherokee National Treasures, Cherokee artists


Cherokee National Treasures: in their own words” is an example of collaborative anthropology and the agency of Native Voice and representation in the 21st Century.  Working together as Cherokees, this unique group of master artisans and their families utilize cultural memory, practice and philosophy to create a tapestry of voices that culminate into a rich and unique history of traditional Cherokee art in Oklahoma.
10/24 This Atom Bomb in Me: Memory, Mimesis, and Poetics Dr. Lindsey Freeman

Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University

 In On Hashish, Walter Benjamin muses that he would “like to write something that comes from things the way wine comes from grapes.” In this talk, I will discuss a similar project by squeezing things from my past that have been fermented over time with memory. I take as the starting point various objects and spaces from my childhood experiences in and around the atomic city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which may or may not be shared by others who encountered atomic Appalachia.
10/31 Title TBA Dr. Lawrence Cohen

Professor of Anthropology, University of California Berkeley


11/13 Homes for Hunters? Exploring Upper Paleolithic Landscapes of Attachment, Connection, Familiarity, and Belongingness Dr. Meg Conkey

Professor Emerita, University of California Berkeley

11/28 Biological Pathways for “Memory”: A Focus on Epigenetics Dr. Zaneta Thayer

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

This talk will introduce broad and narrow definitions of epigenetics, as well as a history of this concept and research. It will also focus on discussing the ways in which anthropologists are using epigenetic methods to study both within- and between- generation programming of environmental experience.