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Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies

With strengths in the history of anti-Semitism, Nazism, and the Holocaust as well as memory and representation of genocide and trauma, faculty associated with the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies (HGMS) initiative are making the University of Illinois one of the leading sites for research into these crucial topics. This program provides a platform for cutting-edge research, teaching, and public engagement.

Mnemonics 2017

Call for papers for Mnemonics 2017 is happening now!

The sixth Mnemonics: Network for Memory Studies summer school will be hosted by the Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform from September 7-9, 2017 at Goethe University Frankfurt. Confirmed keynote speakers are Aleida Assmann (University of Konstanz), Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University, New York) and Anna Reading (King’s College, London).


Illinois faculty produce important scholarship on the history, literature, memory, and artistic representation of genocide and trauma. Recent, new, and forthcoming books by faculty affiliated with this initiative consider the history, implications, and aftereffects of the Holocaust, trauma, and memories of other genocides in diverse contexts and nations.


Faculty offer courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels through departments such as Anthropology, Comparative Literature, English, German, History, Religion, and Slavic Studies. A unique Graduate Certifcate in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies has been offered since 2009. Many HGMS students have been offered posts at Universities, their applications strengthened by the HGMS certificate. For more information on the certificate, click here. For more information on courses that count toward the certificate, click here.

HGMS is pleased to be part of a new international collaborative initiative for graduate studies, Mnemonics: Network for Memory Studies. Together with programs in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, and the US, we will organize annual seminars where graduate students will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with their peers and leading scholars in memory studies. We hosted the annual Mnemonics Summer School in June 2016. The theme was "The Other Side of Memory: Forgetting, Denial, Repression."

Public Engagement

The initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies regularly sponsors public lectures on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and genocide. This semester (Fall 2016) we will host a roundtable on “Radical Right and Remembering in Recent Political History” and next semester we are screening Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt.

2015/2016 was a big year for HGMS programming. Thanks to the generosity of Lorelelei Rosenthal, we kicked off the fall semester with a screening and discussion of Woman in Gold to a capacity audience at the Krannert Art Museum. Then we featured a screening of the film Inheritance at Hillel with a discussion with Journalism professor Chris Benson. Our Krouse Family Visiting Scholar last year was Dagmar Herzog who engaged a rapt crowd with her discussion of “Post-Holocaust Antisemitism and the Invention-Discovery of PTSD.” We were graced by a lecture and discussion from the poet and memoirist Peter Balakian entitled, “The Armenian Genocide, Poetry of Witness and Postmemory.” The graduate students in the Future of Trauma and Memory Studies reading group organized a screening of Look of Silence about the Indonesian genocide. An HGMS graduate student, Priscilla Charrat was awarded the Gendell Family and Shiner Family Fellowship. More information about all of this can be found in our newsletter (link here).

In 2013, the Iniative deubted its blog, Days and Memory, to publicize and report on our local activities and to provide a space for wide-ranging, open discussion of issues pertinent to trauma and memory studies. Since 2013, an affiliated faculty and graduate student reading group, The Future of Trauma and Memory Studies, has also organized many on-campus events, including a gradaute student conference in Spring 2014 and a film series in Spring 2015.

As part of the Network in Transnational Memory Studies, HGMS organized the conference, "Diasporic Memories, Comparative Methodologies" in Fall 2013, featuring many leading international scholars in memory studies, including Aleida Assmann and Ann Rigney. Click here for more information.

In fall 2012, HGMS hosted an event marking the 25th anniversary of the death of Primo Levi (video here) as well as a workshop entitled "Recollection, Retribution, Reconciliation: Postmemory and Justice in a Transnational Age." In March 2011, it hosted a workshop titled "Annihilation, Archive, Autobiography: Networks of Testimony in German-Occupied Europe." In the spring of 2010, the initiative collaborated with the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory on a seminar and conference dedicated to the theme of "Bios: Life, Death, Politics."

The program kicked off in the fall of 2009 with a week-long visit by Shimon Attie and James Young, followed by a major conference, "Genocide, Memory, Justice: The Holocaust in Comparative Context." A regular works-in-progress seminar provides a forum for new work in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies.

Associated Faculty

Brett Kaplan, Interim Director, Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies

Contact Brett Kaplan for more information.