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University of California, Irvine

April 13 – 15, 2017

Precarious Archives, Shifting Memories



Our keynote speaker will be ELENA PONIATOWSKA. As a novelist, essayist, journalist, and activist, Poniatowska has devoted the more than 50 years of her writing career to human rights issues, including advocating for women’s rights, indigenous rights and victims of state oppression. In 2013, she won Spain’s Premio Cervantes Literature Award, the greatest existing Spanish language literature award for an author’s lifetime works, being only the 4th woman to receive such recognition.

This year’s topic, “Precarious Archives, Shifting Memories” (Archivos precarios, memorias cambiantes), is inspired from the term “shifting baselines” often used in the natural sciences to describe how, from one generation to the next, the idea of normalcy can shift, thus rendering invisible the true extent of loss over a greater period of time. The term is usually used to discuss matters related to ecological conservation and human exploitation of natural resources, but it is particularly pertinent to connect ecocriticism with issues such as violence and memory in Mexican culture. When official archives are incomplete, falsified or prone to disappear, what roles are played by other forms of cultural memory? How do cultural narratives evolve over time? How are archives reconfigured and reinvented? How can slow forms of violence, such as the gradual erosion of human rights, economic resources, public space and the natural environment be rendered visible?

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