In the spring of 2007 a number of advanced doctoral-level students at the New School for Social Research (NSSR), among them associates of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) and alumni of its Democracy & Diversity summer institute in Kraków, formed a Memory Study Group. The founders of the group – Amy Sodaro (’11), Adam Brown (’08), Lindsey Freeman (’13), Yifat Gutman (’12), and Alin Coman (’10) – realized that there are students across different departments who are currently conducting their dissertation research in social memory, which was then still an emerging field of study.
Initially, the Memory Group began discussing the theoretical and methodological boundaries associated with members’ respective disciplines (Sociology, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology) and explored whether an interdisciplinary discourse of memory was even possible. Members from a wide range of disciplines presented their work, reviewed literature from a number of disciplines (e.g. neurobiology, psychology, sociology, political science, and anthropology), and discussed how our diverse approaches to memory bear on the individual and society. It became clear that a conversation is possible and throughout the meetings, the group members discovered an urgent need for new paradigms and analyses that bridge and support the diverse fields of memory studies.
The Memory Group set a precedent for a series of annual multi-day conferences, works-in-progress sessions, and lectures that drew large domestic and international audiences to discuss pressing issues in the field.
In 2016, after a few years of hiatus during which the student-founders completed their doctoral work and moved on to academic positions around the world, further extending the network, the memory group at the TCDS was revived and restructured as The Memory Studies Network. The Network set the goal to resume its annual conferences, as well as its works-in-progress sessions and other events that would once again create a unique space for interdisciplinary discussion, scholarly innovation, and international exchange of ideas within the interdisciplinary field of memory studies. The Memory Group’s new cohort hosted a “revival” conference called Memory Rebound (April 14, 2018), a one-day event showcasing the contributions of our community to the field of memory studies, ultimately addressing the questions posed by the very first conference.
After a short break, the group was relaunched as the Memory Studies Group at the New School (MSG) in February 2020. On March 4th, 2020, the just reconstituted group organized the meeting and conversation with editors and authors of the volume Museums and Sites of Persuasion: Politics, Memory, and Human Rights ed. by Joyce Apsel and Amy Sodaro (Routledge, 2019). The book launch featured both founders and new members of the group.
Following this very first event of the revived MSG at the TCDS, the COVID-19 outbreak and complete lockdown resulted in closing the university facilities that dramatically changed the agenda of the group. Despite the termination of face to face meetings, the big plans remain! While we are physically distanced, our meetings continue via virtual platforms. In this extremely challenging time, the MSG managed to launch its website; the group members gather occasionally to discuss works-in-progress papers, articles, books, research projects, etc. We are eager to connect with a broader network in the field and therefore our (near) future plans include resuming traditional for our group annual global conferences. The Memory Studies Group at the New School will be, again, a special space for interdisciplinary discussion, scholarly innovation, and international exchanges of ideas in the field.