Symposium at Williams: on photography and the historical imagination

My colleague, Olga Shevchenko (Anthropology & Sociology, Williams College), has organized a wonderful upcoming symposium at Williams College on the topic of “Memory, Photography, and the Historical Imagination.” She’s invited a stellar group of scholars to discuss the topic, and since the symposium is open to the public, I wanted to let our readers know. If you live within driving distance, please consider joining us for it. To register your interest, and to get access to the pre-circulated papers, please email the Oakley Center’s Rosemary Lane, at:

The symposium, entitled “Visible presence: Memory, photography and the historical imagination” will take place at the Oakley Center for Humanities & Social Sciences, on April 30 and May 1, 2010. To see the symposium schedule, please click here.

Here is a description of the event:

This Oakley Center symposium brings together thinkers in two areas: visual theory/photography and social/collective memory in order to consider the workings of photography for the historical imagination and self-conception of groups and communities. What is the relationship between memory and photography? How does photography participate in the formation and maintenance of collective identities, from the family to the nation? Furthermore, how can we begin to conceptualize the effects of photography on the historical imagination of individuals and groups at large? While images commonly accompany historical accounts—from the History Channel documentaries to family scrapbooks—we know precious little about the visual economy in which they are embedded, and about the larger collective narratives from which they spring and which they shape in return. The symposium will be dedicated to the discussion of pre-circulated papers, providing the participants with an opportunity to connect with an interdisciplinary group of scholars with an interest in memory, photography and the historical imagination.

And the list of invited participants:

  • Geoffrey Batchen (Art History, CUNY)
  • Richard Chalfen (Anthropology, Temple Univ.)
  • Elizabeth Edwards (Anthropology, Univ. of the Arts, London)
  • José van Dijck (Media & Culture, Univ. of Amsterdam)
  • Zeynep Devrim Gürsel (Anthropology, Univ. of Michigan)
  • Martin Jay (History, Univ. of Cal.-Berkeley)
  • WJT Mitchell (Art History/English, Univ. of Chicago)
  • Jeffrey Olick (Sociology/History, UVA)
  • Oksana Sarkisova (OSA Archivum, Central European University)
  • Olga Shevchenko (Sociology, Williams College)
  • Anna Lisa Tota (Sociology & Communication, Univ. of Rome III)

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