Bringing together almost 150 academics from across Europe and North America, the International Conference on the Cultural Politics of Memory at Cardiff University provided interdisciplinary insight into the diverse way memory studies is being utilized to contextualize contemporary life, societies and cultures.
Cardiff provided a very relevant backdrop for our discussions of memory. On the first evening, there was a trip organized to Butetown History and Arts Centre. Co-founded by Dr. Glenn Jordan and Professor Chris Weedon, who had given the opening lecture and helped organize the conference, the centre attempts to give voice to the marginalized histories of Cardiff’s dock-workers. Butetown, also known as Tiger Bay, has been home to immigrant populations in Cardiff for over one hundred years, and subject to numerous regeneration projects. It is a neighbourhood whose residents understand only to well the subjective memory of accepted history and the relevance of lived experience in contextualizing such official accounts. As part of a continuing project to engage with the community, the centre houses a repository of over 450 hours of oral history and 3,000 photographs collected over the past twenty years.
Each day, plenary lectures, such as the one on Butetown, were delivered by speakers well respected in their individual fields. Conference attendees came from a variety of disciplines: sociology, literature, history, and media studies to name a few. This provided an opportunity for a wide-range of viewpoints to converge on a single topic.
Presentations ranged from themes of war and power narratives to the use of memory in popular culture and literature. This provided an opportunity to re-contextualize my own research, grounded as it is in design practice, and encouraged dialogue between fields that may not otherwise overlap. My own paper, entitled ‘Subjectivity of Memory in Childhood Graphic Memoirs’, situated on a panel entitled Literatures of Identity and Self, was well received and generated useful discussion and feedback.