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When you come to study at Birkbeck, you will encounter me in undergraduate modules such as Memory and Media in which we look at how societies and groups choose to remember and connect to the past, how they not only secure and transmit but also form memories with the help of different media. The module investigates how collective memories are drawn upon in narratives that construct the histories and identities of ‘racial’, national and ethnic groups, which in turn underpin those groups’ ideological and political claims. We study the latest concepts of and approaches to cultural memory and apply them to case studies across a wide range of media forms such as cinema, TV, radio, digital archives, memorials and museums. These modules are seminar-based which means that I aim to engage you in class discussion and short group work. I also work with Moodle, our virtual learning environment, to provide you with texts, handouts, presentations and images used in class so that you do not have to spend your time during seminars or lectures taking notes from the whiteboard.

A postgraduate module which I teach regularly is ‘Cultural Memory – Memory Cultures’ which introduces students to the concept of ‘transcultural memory’ and to the interdisciplinary and dynamic field of memory studies. Over the course of the term we will look at social, cultural and political practices that produce ‘a sense of the past’ and are instrumental in the formation of identities, beliefs and ideologies. We investigate the relation between social and psychological dimensions of memory and between the politics and ethics of remembering and forgetting. We explore how memory content is produced, disseminated and secured with the help of case studies (mostly documentary and essay films) across a range of international locations. The main questions we will address are how memories travel across national, cultural, ethnic and religious borders in a global context, but also how the palimpsestic layers of a place inform an ‘archaeology of memory’ and how contested versions of the past can create ‘memory wars’.

I welcome PhD/MPhil/MA/MRes proposals relating to memorials and memorial museums, cultural memory, dissonant and difficult heritage, memory politics and practices of remembrance, intermediality and transmedial storytelling.

Current PhD students

  • Mark Callaghan ‘Unbuilt Proposals for the Berlin Holocaust Memorial Competition: Memory, Commemoration, Aesthetics and the Representation of Difficult Histories’
  • Bruce Eadie ‘The Role of Affect and Representation in Documentary Film’
  • Clare Havell ‘Identity, Anonymity and the Stigmatised Subject’
  • Leila Nassereldein ‘Collecting “Images”: Temporality and Aesthetic Form in the Materialist Historiographies of Humphrey Jennings and Walter Benjamin’
  • Elizabeth Burden-Yang ‘Integrating the Past, Troubles with Narrative: Representing the Troubles at the Ulster Museum’
  • Tamsin Silvey ‘Photography-conflict-archive: remembering and challenging histories of modern conflict in art and heritage institutions since 9/11’