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Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine

MA (Karlsruhe), Dr Phil (Mannheim)

Reader in Memory, Media and Cultural Studies

Steering Committee Member of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM) and co-organiser of the Cultural Memory Research Series at the Institute of Modern Languages Research

For the The Hub - Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture (BIRMAC) I am curating the theme of ‘Ruin/s’ with a series of events .

My teaching and research is concerned with the notion of dissonant or challenging heritage, that is collective processes of remembering and commemorating difficult pasts and their ethical, political, psychological and aesthetic implications. My focus is on the question of how personal and cultural memory relate to each other in modes of engagement framed as affective and experiential encounters with the past, most importantly but not exclusively in (memorial) museums and heritage sites that favour immersive strategies and aim to produce empathy in visitors. Case studies look at the role of different media and art forms in that context and at transmedial storytelling. They are chosen with the aim of identifying transnational tendencies in remembrance cultures as well as culturally diverse responses.

Contact details

    Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies
    Birkbeck, University of London
    43 Gordon Square
    London WC1H 0PD
    email: s.arnold-desimine@bbk.ac.uk
    tel: 020 7631 6150

Research update

    Animating the Past: Difficult Heritage, Challenging Memory

    Whereas my last book Mediating Memory in the Museum explores how (memorial) museums use personal memories to engage audiences with historical events, this project is concerned with the representation of private memories in a framework which contextualises them as heritage. In this context I interrogate preconceived assumptions of what the relationship between affect/emotion, experience and comprehension (and consequently action) is supposed to be; just because we have ‘felt’ and experienced something, does it mean we are any closer to understanding it? Key questions are the role of interactive media forms (from the oral to the performative and digital) in this process, how memory practices and performances are negotiated among groups of stakeholders, and how supposedly very different modes of relating to the past (trauma, nostalgia) complement and inform each other in unexpected ways as audiences engage with historical interpretations. One of my case studies is a comparative analysis of commemorative projects around the First World War Centenary.

Recent publications:

    • ‘Between Memory and Silence, between Family and Nation: Remembering the First World War through Digital Media’, in Beyond Memory: Silence and the Aesthetics of Remembrance. Ed. by Jay Winter and Alexandre Dessingué. London: Routledge 2015, pp.143-162.
    • ‘The Ruin as Memorial – the Memorial as Ruin’, Performance Research 20/3 (June 2015): 94-102.

About Silke Arnold-de Simine