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INTERGENERATIONAL DYNAMICS OF VULNERABILITY: Remembering the (Post)Communist City Workshop

Remembering the (Post)Communist City. Vulnerable Sites of Intergenerational Traumatic Memories in Transatlantic Perspective (workshop for ACED-18, the 18th Annual Conference of the English Department, University of Bucharest, 2-4 June 2016; link to conference program)

Workshop conveners: Dana Mihailescu, Roxana Oltean, Mihaela Precup (University of Bucharest) (workshop organized as part of PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-0051 project Intergenerational Dynamics of Vulnerability in American Trauma Narratives, project no. 173/2015 funded by UEFISCDI)

Workshop Chair: Andaluna Borcila (James Madison College/Michigan State University)


Workshop respondent: Mihaela Precup (University of Bucharest)


Workshop rationale and description: The connection between memory and the city has been most famously explored by Pierre Nora’s collection Lieux de mémoire/Realms of Memory (1984, 1989), where he diagnosed the death of “authentic memory” and its replacement in the urban space with sites such as memorials, museums, and other visual representations that, together with various commemoration practices, regulate national life frames (Judith Butler). Additionally, Andreas Huyssen’s Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford University Press, 2003) emphasized the high stakes of urban spaces and media as material palimpsests offering “traces of the historical past in the present.” More recently, identifying specific coordinates of the connection between memory and the (post)communist city in contemporary societies has been an increasing focus of international scholarship and public attention. The topic has been competently broached in Augusta Dimou, Maria Todorova, and Stefan Troebst’s edited volume Remembering Communism. Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe (CEU Press, 2014), which records the dynamic processes of memory practices that mirror ongoing developments of private and public memories and identities in Southeast Europe by concentrating on the post-Stalinist era in Bulgaria and Romania, with occasional references to Poland and the GDR. Memory and Political Change, a collection of essays edited by Aleida Assmann and Linda Shortt (Palgrave 2012) examines mediated representations of the past during transitional historical periods. The significance of considering (post)communist sites in transatlantic perspective has gained momentum especially thanks to Andaluna Borcila’s American Representations of Post-Communism: Television, Travel Sites, and Post-Cold War Narratives (Routledge, 2014), which explores American ways of mapping the disintegration of communism and U.S. narratives articulated around post-communist sites and subjects in television news broadcasts, travel guides, and return narratives by East European immigrants to the US.

Our workshop means to contribute to this ongoing conversation by exploring the innovative insights cultural studies scholars can gain from considering (post)communist sites in connection to intergenerational (traumatic) memories in transatlantic perspective. We hope to especially address some significant loose ends in need of scholarly attention, such as the relationship between remembering and representing (post)communist cities; the transmission of memory and historical knowledge; the impact of vulnerability, generationality, and various media on the production and consumption of (post)communist city memories. 

Workshop participants and titles of presentations:

Dana Mihailescu (University of Bucharest): Images of Childhood from 1950s Communist Bucharest in Memoirs by Women Émigrées Authors to the United States


Roxana Oltean (University of Bucharest): Sites of Vulnerability and Return in the Communist City


Andaluna Borcila (James Madison College/Michigan State University): Romanian Cities as Sites of Revolution: Televisibility, Remembering, and Touring Communism


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Partenerii nostri: US Embassy | Fulbright Commission in Romania | English Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages,