Centre for Photography and Visual Culture

Commemoration, memory, archive: investigating commemorative and memorial uses of personal, non-profe

4-5 September 2018
Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Brighton

PI1The commemorative and memorial use of personal, private images in the context of large-scale violence and death has a long history. Private images have been continually employed to access worlds that no longer exist, to de-anonymize, individualize or humanize victims, to identify murderers and the murdered, to evidence contested events and to prove the existence of life before death. They populate archives, memorials and museums, places of public protest and, increasingly, myriad regions of the internet. 

The private photographic archive has been an important part of what Paul Williams calls the “global rush to commemorate” (2007), starting, arguably, with the attempts to memorialize the Holocaust. 

Yet in this movement from the private to public, from intimacy to historical significance, private images undergo transitions (including for example displacement, re-contextualization and politicization) in a manner that raises critical challenges for both commemorative practices and those to whom the images initially belonged. To what extent, as some scholars have argued, does this use of private images become part of a trend to globalize and homogenize commemoration, such that local contexts are overwritten? Similarly, where are issues of access, copyright and meaning addressed, particularly with the rise of the digital, and state-controlled, centralized memory-making? 

This two-day symposium at the University of Sussex aims to explore real and perceived changes in the relationship(s) between private still images and the memorialization and commemoration of mass violence – including trauma – with a particular focus on practices in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South and Central America in the digital age. Our latter emphasis on the digital is in response to the ways digital and social media are now arguably dominant in both personal and institutional commemoration, affecting all stages of image curation from archiving and scanning to display. As part of Sussex’s interdisciplinary ethos, we are particularly interested in exploring intersections between theory and practice and invite scholarly and practice contributions that speak to a range of themes as listed below. 

We will be joined by:

• Members of the Rwanda Genocide Archive in Kigali and Archivo Provincial de la Memoria in Córdoba, Argentina who will discuss their respective commemorative and activist uses of private images. 

• Keynote Speakers include: Professor Ludmila da Silva Catela (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba Museum of Anthropology, Archivo Provincial de la Memoria); Claver Irakoze(Aegis Trust/Rwanda Genocide Archive in Kigali); and others TBC.

• Members of UK institutions concerned with memorializing conflict and violence.

• A screening of The Faces We Lost (2017) followed by a Q&A with the director. 

There will be dedicated networking time to further future collaborations.

We invite contributions to both the roundtable discussions and more traditional conference papers. Please note that the aim of the roundtables is to generate and facilitate a broad exchange of knowledge and ideas and to nurture collaboration. Consequently, as selected roundtable members you will be asked to participate in the discussion from the perspective of your research expertise rather than present a traditional conference/practice paper. 


1. Regional, national, cultural and geographic contexts (which will foreground the following themes):

• Examples of the practice of commemorative, memorial and activist uses of personal, non-professional images in different national, cultural, geographical contexts. We are particularly interested in examples from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South and Central America (comparative approaches, including with European and North American contexts, are also welcome).
• Holocaust-related commemorative practices and their influence on commemorative practices related to other instances of violence. 
• Current, dominant private image-based commemorative practices in the Global South and how these reflect on the processes of witnessing and mediating pain, memory, trauma and history. 
• Impact of “amateur”, domestic aesthetics and their relationship to authenticity.

2. Archival, curatorial and artistic practices (which will foreground the following themes):

• Definitions and re-definitions of the archive, with a focus on exploring the relationship between the private and the public.
• Archival and curatorial practices in the digital age.
• Private image use in artistic practice (film, photography, installation etc). 
• The practical, methodological and ethical issues for researchers and artists documenting image-based commemorative practices. 

3. After the digital turn (which will foreground the following questions):

• To what extent has the memorial ontology of the private image changed as a result of the proliferation of digital technologies? 
• What are the implications – for both image and image owner – in the transition from personal archive to public digital sphere?
• How do issues of connectivity and access impact on the use of private images in the digital sphere? 
• How is the digital integrated into the institutional use of private images and what are the implications?

4. Now and then: commemoration, activism and future directions? (which will foreground the following questions):

• What are the boundaries and relationships between image-based commemoration, activism and citizen journalism? 
• What are the key issues and debates around privacy, ethics and appropriation in relation to the use of private images in digital commemorative practice (personal and institutional)?
• What might be the future directions of image-based commemoration in the Global South? 


We invite contributions to both the roundtable discussions and more traditional conference papers. 

Roundtable Participation

If you would like to participate in the Roundtable discussions please send a 300-word expression of interest with a brief biography to Piotr Cieplak on imageandcommemoration@gmail.com by 9th July 2018. 


Abstracts should include: a) a brief overview of how your research or practice work fits into the remit of the roundtables b) three key points you would like to include for consideration and discussion among other participants. 

Traditional Papers

If you would like to submit a more traditional, 20-minute paper on any of the themes covered by the roundtables above please send an abstract of 300 words and a brief biography to Piotr Cieplak on imageandcommemoration@gmail.com by 9th July 2018.

We are particularly interested in hearing from early career researchers but abstracts from people at all stages of their career are welcome.


The symposium will be free to attend but you will need to register (details to follow) and the number of delegates will be limited. Lunch and refreshments will be provided on both days. A limited number of travel and accommodation bursaries are available; details on application.

The call for participation/papers can also be accessed here:

The symposium is funded by the British Academy and supported by the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex.