Memories of the Future

Memories of the Future
29 March 2019, 9.00am - 30 March 2019, 8.00pm
Conference / Symposium
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

* Image: credit G Panteli

Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory

Keynote speakers: Stephen Bann (Bristol), Anna Reading (KCL), Maurizio Ferraris (Turin), Sandra Kemp (The Ruskin, Lancaster)

Keynote Abstracts


What does it mean to remember the future? What roles do memory, history, the past, play in our consciousness as citizens of the early twenty-first century? 

David Lowenthal (2015) reminds us that 'commands to forget coexist with zeal to commemorate', which raises the very important yet often overlooked questions of: what to remember and what to forget, who is well positioned to lead on or judge in that process, with whose legacies in mind, and with what consequences for future and past generations. In the 1980s, a significant body of scholarship on cultural memory emerged to protect the past from ‘time’s corrosive energy’, leading to ‘collective future thought’ (J. Assmann, 2011; Szpunar and Szpunar, 2016). Cultural memory acted as a moral imperative, a prerequisite to overcome not merely violent pasts but the violence inherent in linear temporality. As such, cultural memory has been seen as redemptive, enabling a more productive relation between past, present and future.  

More recently, ‘thinking forward through the past’ has been central to a number of AHRC-funded projects in the UK examining environmental change, postcolonial disaster, gender and colonialism, heritage futures, ruins and more. Climate change, big data and the crisis of democracy are challenging our future in ways that may suggest a misalignment of temporal scales. One way of responding to this is through what Reinhart Koselleck (2000) called horizons of expectations and spaces of experience, namely, the horizons implicit in our anticipations of the future and the degree to which our experience of these have changed and will change over time. Utopian imaginaries and deploying utopia as a method (Levitas, 2013) invite us to think about hope, empathy, and solidarity, each contributing to create different places from which to imagine a future outside crises, fears and risk. 

The past and the future constitute our cultural horizons in ways which are neither neutral nor solely technical, but, as Appadurai (2013) has suggested, ‘shot through with affect and sensation’. One of the key challenges of our time is how to study and create futures we truly care for and which are more social (Adam and Groves 2007; Urry, 2016). 

Following from our first conference of 2014, Memories of the Future aims to articulate the future in relation to cultural memory, and interrogate the precise and diverse manners in which the past, the present and the future are intertwined and dialogical, complicating our understanding of temporalities in an age saturated with memory and ‘past futures’.

Organisers: S Arnold-de Simine (Birkbeck), C López Galviz (Lancaster), G Panteli (UCL), K Pizzi (IMLR, London), J Siebers (Middlesex/IMLR, London)

Supported by the Cassal Endowment Fund and University College London's Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies

Registration is now closed

BOTH DAYS: Standard £80 | Friends of Italian/German £65 | Students/unwaged £40

ONE DAY:  Standard £65 | Friends of Italian/German £60 | Students/unwaged £30


Cathy Collins
020 7862 8738