Law, Memory, and Politics Workshop

We invite to join us on 21st and 22nd September at U33 Building for an engaging and insightful workshop.
Law, Memory and Politics

All contemporary societies casually utilize the past in maintaining their distinct societal values and at the same time cherish the collective memory of the nationally significant past (1). In addition, the past appears frequently, not only as a justification behind law-making and legislation, but also as an object of law. Interpretations of the past permeate the legal sphere of supranational actors like the EU or nation-states alike, and continuous reinterpretations of the past shape the idea of law in administration, education or academia. Even traditional legal dogmatic research can support its analysis on historical arguments, while simultaneously creating a narrative about how society looks and why.

In the last decades, memory has become an overwhelmingly popular object of study, not least because of the essential relation between collective memory and politics of power (2) However, equally important has been the acknowledgment of the significance of memory in empowering the marginalized, the structurally violated and the fragile in society. As a part of collective memory, individual experiences of shame and persecution can become less disturbing. Collective reminiscence helps individuals to articulate the meaning of some past events that would be otherwise impossible to conceptualize (3). Acknowledging the memory cultures of those previously oppressed, is an important step in furthering social equality.

This workshop as two purposes. On one hand, it aims to investigate and critique the uses of the past in present law making, and on the other hand, analyze the attempts to legally regulate different interpretations of the past. We aim at a novel approach to law and society by critically assessing commonly held assumptions about the relation between law and the uses of the past.

Across space and time, the trinity of memory, identity and the political future of a given community have been used as a foundation for societal endeavors. Studying law and memory in relation to paradigmatic shifts in global economy, social change and everyday realities of human beings enables a critical study of law in contemporary societies and provides new views on how memory laws consolidate political power and social hierarchies.

(1) Anderson, B., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso 1991.

(2)  Hartog, F., Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time. Columbia UP 2016.

(3) Savolainen, U. ‘Tellability, frame and silence: the emergence of internment memory,’ Narrative Inquiry 27:1 (2016).

We are happy to announce our incredible keynote speakers for the workshop:

Lea David (University College of Dublin)

Justin Desautels-Stein (University of Colorado)

Dirk Moses (City College of New York)

The workshop will be held in Juhlasali 303, Unioninkatu 33 at the University of Helsinki. Registration for the event has already closed, but you are still welcome to join the workshop (coffee/tea and lunches are for registered participants only). Welcome!

If you have any questions, you can contact