Retrospect: Conference “Remembering the Present”

20.-22. October 2023

When does remembrance take effect? When do societies and individuals begin to negotiate history, to write history, on the basis of memory? In pluralist societies, cultures of remembrance exist in parallel. They take on elements of one another and become woven, for their part, into the story of who is meant by a society’s ‘we’, and who is not.

The Coalition for Pluralistic Public Discourse (CPPD) conference ‘Gegenwart erinnern’ / ‘Remembering the present’ wrestled with these questions in Berlin from 20-22 October 2023. The conference was dedicated remembrance and remembrance culture’s possibilities, limits, and ability to react in light of current events and politics. Underlying this was the conviction that remembrance cultures are fundamentally involved in the processes of communication and understanding our societies are engaged in via identity and identities. They also play a central role in that conflict dynamics that we are currently experiencing at the German, European, and global levels. They demonstrate the tightly entangled nature of our histories. They do not only impact the present – the present determines our entanglements.

Our conference days were not concerned with competitions for attention or space in the remembrance calendar. Rather, they were devoted to the unfolding of this calendar – about enriching it and filling with life a promise that has become an empty phrase: Never again!

We used the occasion of our evening event at the Akademie der Künste to present the concrete results of the work of the CPPD. ‘Remembering the present’ was also the focal point of this event. An abbreviated version of the Dynamic Memory Lab allowed the large and enthusiastic audience to gain a view into the dynamic exhibition project on the topic of ‘Codes of Memory in Roma* and Sinti* Communities’. Early results from the CPPD’s online survey on plural cultures of remembrance were presented. These included analytical trends that provide further support for the central values and goals of the CPPD within the framework of pluralistic cultures of remembrance. In addition, space on stage was given to the CPPD event series ‘Past Perfekt?’ in the form of a musical contribution from the pianist Daniel Gerzenberg.

A centrepiece of the evening was the panel discussion ‘Remembering the present’, which invited selected experts and members of the CPPD network to discuss the conference topic. The discussion took place within the context of a video discussion series that took place prior to the conference in which experts from the arts, culture, journalism, activism, and politics focussed on different conflict regions and instances of remembrance. They were equally inquisitive in their exploration of the diverse issues surrounding remembrance of the present. The videos were released shortly before the conference on the CPPD website and can be accessed here.

The three-day conference concluded on Sunday with a visit to an event at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Members of the CPPD network were invited to the discussion series ‘Versöhnungstheater’ / ‘Reconciliation Theatre’ by Max Czollek, the poet, commentator, author and CPPD curator. In their discussion, he and Mirjam Zadoff both explored questions at the intersection of remembrance and violence.

We can look back with satisfaction at the successful conference and would like to thank all our participants, guests, contributors, and supporters.


Fotocredit: © CPPD | Elena Krasnokutskaya

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˝Thanks to DialoguePerspectives I have encountered inspiring people who have expanded, and also completely changed, my understanding of religion, engagement, and encounter. The interdisciplinarity of the programme combined with the high standards everyone holds each other to have made DialoguePerspectives a formative experience for me.

Till, DialoguePerspectives alumnus

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