The Materiality of Memory: Incarnating the Dead

Chaired by
Marcin Napiórkowski
  • Participants — Ewa Domańska (Stanford/UAM Poznań), Marije Hristova and Jay Winter (Yale)

During the discussion we will look at various aspects of incarnating the dead from the perspective of contemporary studies in collective memory. The ritual of Dziady serves as both inspiration and an end point, since reflection on the changing role of the dead in contemporary culture, science and politics may open up new readings of both the original ritual and its poetic interpretation by Adam Mickiewicz.

The issue of the cohabitation of the living and the dead is now at the very heart of the so-called ‘memory boom’. The identification, exhumation and commemoration of victims of wars and dictatorships, often after years of oblivion, is a challenge that links the discursive character of commemorative politics and rituals with the materiality of the work of archaeologists and forensic identification specialists.

How new forensic identification technologies are changing the cultural meaning of mourning and commemorative ceremonies in the era of ‘exhumation fever’ that has engulfed many countries? How the rediscovered materiality of dead bodies is affecting the ethical and aesthetic norms of memory? How new forms of the ‘politics of dead bodies’ are shaping the discourse of memory in various corners of the world? What are the roles of diverse memory players, institutions and communities – from national states to social movements and NGOs to families and religious communities – in view of these changes?


Date and hour

31 October

Running time

120 minutes


Polish with English interpretation


Ewa Domańska, photo Wojciech Olejniczak

Ewa Domańska


Marije Hristova, photo Maastricht University Archive

Marije Hristova


Jay Winter, photo Sid Hastings

Jay Winter