Undergraduate Courses

HMR 120A - Art, Architecture, & Human Rights

HMR 131 - Genocide

HMR 136 - Human Rights in the Middle East

Graduate seminars

HMR 200B/ CST 210, SPA 202 - Memory, Culture, and Human Rights

Professor Michael Lazzara 

Tuesdays, 2:10-5:00 - Olson 18

Although “memory” has been a topic for intellectual reflection since classical antiquity, it has sparked analysis and debate in academia since the 1980s, particularly due to the rise of Holocaust Studies and the urgent need to reflect on the causes and consequences of human rights violations around the world. Crossing the social sciences, humanities, and the arts, memory has become a category for critical inquiry as well as a political and ethical imperative that links intellectual reflection to political activism both during and after authoritarian regimes, wars, civil conflicts, genocide, slavery, and other traumatic and discriminatory histories. Over the past 30 years, memory studies have become institutionalized in the U.S. and abroad in the form of M.A. programs, certificate programs, conferences, and specialized journals promoting scholarship in this area.

What are memory studies? An autonomous field? A space of interdisciplinary inquiry? What kinds of work does a memory lens make possible? What are the limits, drawbacks, and untapped potential of such a framework?

This seminar will explore the productivity of “memory” an analytical category through which to do cultural studies work and for thinking about human rights. We will discuss how societal actors in different historical, cultural, and national settings construct meanings of past political violence, inter-group conflicts, and human rights struggles.

Readings will be mostly theoretical or conceptual in nature, although we will also discuss several primary texts and films derived largely from Latin America (specifically from Chile, Argentina, and Peru), a region of the world in which memory studies and reflections on memory have flourished in recent decades. Given the limited time we’ll have in the seminar, primary texts will touch on the literary genres of fiction, film, and testimony, though students are welcome to engage with other cultural objects—music, memorials, visual arts, etc.—in their individual projects. Students are highly encouraged to use this seminar as an opportunity to connect a memory studies approach to their own individual lines of research and to areas of the world beyond Latin America on which they may be focusing.

Students can enroll in this seminar through any of three call numbers (SPA 202/ HMR 200B/ CST 210). Class discussions and readings will be in English, though students of Spanish will also be able to read many texts in the original Spanish. Oral presentations will be in English. Final papers and written work can be submitted in English or Spanish.