Conference: "The Own Past: History and Memory in the Building of Collective Identities"

The current debate on the scientific status of history as an academic discipline and its claims for objectivity and truth is organized mainly around Recent History, that is, a sequence of events that make it possible to locate and make intelligible the political and social contemporary situation. The space of historiographic controversies encompasses conflicting paradigms not only of (1) epistemology but also (2) normativity and (3) identity. The paradox is that while the notion of historical distance participates of the conceptual arsenal of academic history, for the layman there are certain histories that s/he considers his/her “own” and which define part of her/his identity, at the same time that her/his understanding cannot be independent of the work of the historian.

In fact, unlike other human sciences, history plays a fundamental role in the formation of citizens and collective identities in general, as can be seen already by their presence at school and their re-presentation of the building of the nation-state and other institutions from which individuals are supposed to take part and this means both an understanding of the ideas about the legitimacy of the established power and the way in which the past is invoked in ceremonies, commemorations, museums and monuments.

But while it is true that the controversies about the recent past cannot be completely disassociated from contemporary political struggles, it is also true that individuals and institutions understand and in some cases redefine -beyond an understandable scepticism in times of postmodernism- what they consider their own identities in terms of narratives they judge to be true, at least in a broad sense, and which they are willing to assume as a constituting part of their own identity. Being French, Canadian, Jewish, Protestant or African-American is not something that can be defined without taking into account at least one historical account.

This International Congress proposes to revisit, from multiple perspectives, the relationship between history, crisis and identity both collectively and individually, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the impact of historiographic discourse on identity narratives both in their critical and constitutive aspects.

Posted: 18-04-2017 | Updated: 07-03-2022