Curating Difficult Knowledge

an international conference

16-18 April 2009

Concordia University, Montreal

How are public spaces used to shape memories of systematic mass violence? What unique challenges arise in attempts to deploy narratives and documents of collective suffering for public display? And what innovations in exhibition, museology, and the activation of memorial sites might these challenges inspire?

Employing as a point of departure a notion of “difficult knowledge” as that which challenges or disrupts anticipated experience (and thus potentially induces transformations in understanding or subjectivity), and considering “curation” in its deeper meaning of “taking care of,” this conference provided a venue in which to grapple with these questions as they arise in theory and practice.

The Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence at Concordia University hosted its first international conference in April 2009, co-sponsored by the Canada Research Chairs in Post-Conflict Studies and Latin American History. Keynote speakers included Prof. Roger Simon, Faculty Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Media and Culture in Education and Director of the Testimony and Historical Memory Project at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Specific aims of the conference were:

• To engage an emerging body of interdisciplinary scholarship and practice around representing and conveying experiences and meanings of historical suffering and injustice;

• To envision and critique innovative attempts at public knowledge production and transmission about post-conflict experience;

• To reflect on the creation of public spaces for the discussion of past violence as part of community and nation-state recognition of the past for future generations. We especially encourage participation by scholars, curators, artists, activists and other practitioners who are engaging with these questions in the context of museums, memorials, and “sites of conscience.” Our goal is to bring together individuals who are engaged in experimental curatorial work in the aftermath of violence with researchers undertaking fine-grained reporting on and analysis of such work.

Download Conference Program

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence