Memory Sites and Human Rights
Unless it is nurtured by memory and history, human rights discourse is in danger of losing historical grounding and risks legalistic abstraction and political abuse
— Huyssen Andreas, International human rights and the politics of memory: limits and challenges, 2011, p.608.
Why and how do we remember past atrocities and human rights violations? What is the role of memory sites in social reconstruction, transitional justice and democratisation? How do memory sites shape communities, societies, identities and nations?
As witnesses and testimonies of abuse and horror, memory sites aspire to build reflection, teaching and learning, critical memory and non-repetition. Memory is dynamic and constantly evolving, so memory sites function as places where to look at the past to better understand and shape the present and the future of a society and its approach to human rights. As "sites of conscience" drawing on history lessons, memory sites stimulate dialogue and healing, and inspire citizens' action.
This MOOC focuses on the role of memory sites in their crucial interplay with historical trauma, the reconciliation process, the chosen methods for dealing with the past, as well as with nation building dynamics and the shaping of societal identity.
On completion of the course, participants will gain:
- Understanding of the interconnection and interdependence between history, memory, art and human rights
- Knowledge of "symbolic reparation" as part of the mechanisms of transitional justice and its contribution to the processes of reconciliation and democratisation
- Awareness about the relational complexity of actors involved in creation of memory sites in diverse political and cultural context
- Awareness of the role of ethnicity, religion and gender in the memorialization process
- Knowledge of the influence of memory sites in shaping communities, identities, societies and nations
- Awareness of the problems and challenges in creating memory sites
- Knowledge of the "sites of conscience", their educational benefits and effects for contemporary human rights issues
- Insights of the role of artistic language and institutional design on memorialization, democratisation and justice
The course is articulated in three modules:
Module 1 focuses on the conceptual framework behind memory sites. Starting from a reflection on why and what is important to remember, it then moves to discuss how memories are shaped and who is involved in 'building memory'. It will show the linkage between history, memory and human rights and the role of memorialization in reconciliation and social reconstruction.
Module 2 is dedicated to the objectives of memory sites, ranging from information and knowledge-sharing to the idea of providing evidence of abuses; from the role of memory sites for identity building/reconstruction and education to the ethical, legal and political challenges of the representation of horror.
Module 3 will focus on the aspects related to the 'design' of memory sites, thus dealing with format and content, use of testimonials and symbolic resources, artistic language and types of institutional approaches, stressing the artistic contextualization vis-à-vis the visitors' reactions and empathetic sentiments for past atrocities and abuses..
The course encompasses an 8-week period. Participants are expected to engage in approximately 40 hours of active learning through readings, videos, podcasts, photo essays/slide-shares, discussions, webinars and quizzes. The course is based on a participatory approach aimed at developing and reinforcing personal critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning. Case studies will be used to identify cross-regional and cross-cutting issues and enable a global and multidimensional understanding of the topic.
Certificate of participation
The course is self-paced so participants can study in their own time. However, to enhance peer learning, interactive participation and self-assessment, weekly discussions, module quizzes and webinars are proposed at set dates. To successfully complete the course and receive a certificate of participation, students must take part in four weekly discussions and pass four quizzes.
We designed this course for anyone around the world who is curious and motivated to learn more about human rights; history; memory; past, present and future challenges; transitional justice, truth and reconciliation; design, arts and architecture; civic action, engagement and social justice.
The course has been developed under the leadership of the Master's Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LATMA) coordinated by the International Centre for Political Studies of the University of San Martin in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the European Regional Master's Programme in Democracy and Human Rights in South East Europe (ERMA) coordinated by the University of Sarajevo, with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the University of Bologna, with the Institute for Central-Eastern and Balkan Europe (Italy).