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Transformative Memory – Confronting the Past in Grand-Scale Socio-Economic Change

Unit(s) of assessment: History

Research theme: Global Heritage

School: School of Arts and Humanities


How do individuals and communities respond to “slow-moving” and dispersed transformations, which can be highly consequential, disruptive and even traumatic? The manifestations of environmental change have resulted in the loss of homes and livelihoods, and the creation of new types of refugees. The rapid transformation of local and global economies, growing levels of digitisation and the reliance on artificial intelligence has meant that millions of workers have had to re-tool and live with the disappearance or transformation of industries and professions on which they had relied and with which they identified.

Those same economic transformations have challenged established welfare states and standards of social care at the same time as mental health systems are struggling to help people cope with new professional demands and the toxic side-effects of economic and political restructuring. Rising inequality has led to a shift in political landscapes and has facilitated the mobilisation of right-wing forces that have skilfully employed a politics of memory to their advantage. And in the midst of such large-scale and diffuse processes of socio-economic and environmental change, individuals and communities continue to grapple with histories of violence and divisions. Practices of remembering and commemoration are then deeply interwoven with how communities understand and manage their place in these emerging and decisive transformations.

This project seeks to move memory and heritage studies beyond an exclusive focus on “conflictual pasts” in the traditional sense, while not neglecting the importance of understanding collective responses to historical violence. We aim to bring together scholars to discuss memory from a holistic perspective of large-scale transformation processes. The following areas have been identified as starting points for framing discussions:

  • Post-industrial communities
  • Reconfiguration of welfare and social care systems
  • Post-conflict divisions in society
  • Changing political landscapes
  • Environmental change


Key partners in this project are:

  • Sara Dybris McQuaid, School of Communication and Culture, University of Aarhus
  • Sara Gensburger, CNRS, Paris Nanterre University / ENS Paris
  • Joanna Wawrzyniak, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
  • Orli Fridman, Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University in Belgrade
  • Joanne Garde-Hansen, Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies, University of Warwick
  • Paula Reavey, London South Bank University