Cultural heritage as resource for transforming places of violence in spaces of memory 

University of Roma Tre

20 MAY 2022

The potential of the cultural heritage in the reconfiguration of traumas will be here analyzed. The main idea will be to further investigate the relations between artistic representations and political articulation, with the aim of adding new dimensions, especially with respect to the question of reaching historical truth and reconciliation (Dekel and Tota, 2017). The tradition of critical interpretive analysis that considers structural and cultural aspects of institutions, memory and the arts will be the shared intellectual and theoretical basis that makes up this contribution. As Zolberg (1996) wrote, artistic languages remain a central key for understanding the intersection of historical representations, and public memories of difficult pasts. Without the arts in contemporary society it would be almost impossible to successfully ‘work through’ (Adorno, 1959) traumatic and controversial events. Art and cultural heritage are here considered especially as a negotiating arena, where rights, social identities and definitions are questioned and claimed (Schwartz and Bayma, 1999). In this sense, art is a social production, a place and a space where societies keep producing and reproducing themselves. The practices of artistic production and consumption concretely become spaces in which to imagine social change, in which to anchor reflection on future possibilities, domains where social imagination exercises itself. The main theoretical references will be, on the one side, the theory of cultural trauma, according to which trauma is a cultural process mediated through various forms of representation (Eyerman 2001; Alexander et al. 2001) and, on the other, the theory of “the restlessness of events” (Robin Wagner-Pacifici, 2010). Traumatic and controversial events will be considered in their fluid and multiple shape-shifting forms, in their crucial role in the reworking of collective traumatic memories. It will be argued that the languages of the arts are particularly effective in the public discourse, as they can be used as powerful dispositifs for alternative forms of reparation and, moreover, they can contribute to shape counter-memories.  It will be here further explored how particular places of violence, linked to controversial pasts, can be reconfigured, through the crucial intervention of the languages of contemporary art, as spaces of memory with open-ended processes of meaning formation and disruption of consolidated narratives.