Central and Eastern Europe—the scenes of brutal genocides during the last century—are dotted with sites of trauma. Only some of those potential sites of memory are now marked with plaques, gravestones or memorials. This talk will focus on the sites that have been left behind, contested or forgotten and that still contain the bodies of victims. Because the problematic sites are kept out of the social imaginaries, responses to them are not part of an easily-readable symbolic system within official culture. An alternative approach is therefore needed, a more sensitive tool that may spot and assess interactions.
“Immemory” is different from forgetting. It combines dismantled means that are symbolic (mythologized narratives, pronouncements, isolated sentences) and extra-symbolic (non-verbal elements of speech, gestures) with somatic actions and performative acts (interactions with the locations and people). In the realm of “immemory,” “tacit knowledge” and “forbearance of speech” take their place in the transmission of an experience of the past that has yet to be determined, that is not yet ready to be pronounced and that is emotional and corporeal.
Roma Sendyka is an Associate Professor at the Polish Studies Department and the head of the Research Center for Memory Cultures at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Currently, she works on two research projects: Awkward objects of genocide. Vernacular art on the Holocaust and ethnographic museums and Unmemorialized Genocide Sites and Their Impact on Collective Memory, Cultural Identity, Ethical Attitudes and Intercultural Relations in Contemporary Poland.