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About the course

In the aftermath of all genocides and mass atrocities, the call to "never forget" seems a constant. Remembering past periods of violence and the systematic abuse of human rights serves to honor the victims whose lives were lost, just as it pushes societies to hold accountable those involved in the abuses. Memory is also often evoked as a preventive force, however. Any number of political and social actors can be quoted repeating the famed phrase of George Santayana, that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. But what exactly is the relationship between memory and prevention? How can remembering past violence lead to the prevention of future violence? These questions lie at the heart of this course.

Over the next four weeks, we will be examining the relationship between memory and prevention. We will begin by investigating what exactly we mean when we speak about memory in the context of a post-atrocity society, before detailing its role in coming to terms with a violent past through downstream prevention and transitional justice measures. Next, we will look at how memory practices can contribute to the mitigation of some of the risk factors associated with violence. In week three, we will think through several of an array of memory initiatives, including education programs, historical dialogue initiatives, and the arts. Finally, in week four we will focus specifically on the creation of memorials and sites of memory, examining their preventive potential. At the end of the course, you will be asked to develop your own memory initiative within your home country that evokes the past in order to prevent future violence.

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

For more information:

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