AUP students enjoying an evening picnic at the Seine river.


Understanding Intergenerational Memories of Important Events

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On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention hosted Professor William Hirst of The New School for a lecture about the intergenerational memory of important events. Hirst addressed an audience of faculty, staff and students in the Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center of the Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons.

A prominent scholar of memory, Hirst’s research has focused, in recent years, on how people and communities remember public events, and how social interactions shape such memories. His lecture focused on the nuances of intergenerational memory by discussing the differences between the ways in which historical facts and personal stories about lived experiences are communicated. He argued that, though personal memories are often embedded within a historical setting, they tended to be more contextualized than historical memories. “When a memory becomes cultural it takes on characteristics that are distinct from those associated with lived memories,” he explained.

Hirst drew on several case studies to illustrate this point, discussing memories of the September 11 attacks from two generations of Americans, memories of the 1976 coup d’état and 2001 economic crisis from two generations of Argentines, and memories of the Second World War from three generations of Belgians. “Knowing something about your parents within a historical setting gives that event a certain resonance,” noted Hirst. “You may know about the bombing of Dresden, but if you know that your mother hid out in a basement during the bombing, then suddenly it becomes an incredibly important event for you.”

You can find the full video of Professor Hirst’s talk below.