History, Memory and Reconciliation


  • Affiliate
  • Professor, Comparative Literature, Emerita
  • Professor, French and Italian, Emerita
default people 100x120
Saikat Majumdar

This series will examine scholarly and institutional efforts to create new national narratives that walk the fine line between before and after, memory and truth, compensation and reconciliation, justice and peace. Some work examines communities ravaged by colonialism and the great harm that colonial and post-colonial economic and social disparities cause.   The extent of external intervention creates discontinuities and dislocation, making it harder for people to claim an historical narrative that feels fully authentic.  Another response is to set up truth-seeking institutions such as truth commissions. Historical examples of truth commissions in South Africa, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Morocco inform more current initiatives in Canada, Cambodia, Colombia, Kenya, and the United States.  While this range of economic, social, political and legal modalities all seek to explain difficult pasts to present communities, it is not yet clear which approach yields greater truth, friendship, reconciliation and community healing.

Far from promoting a "competition of memories," the series seeks to create a debate and establish an exchange between various groups, pointing out the similarities and the differences of their historical experience. These comparative exchanges generate a better understanding and knowledge of Others, and a fruitful international dialogue: a dialogue necessary in international relations and in today's globalized world.

Sponsored by Contemporary History and the Future of Memory, a project of the DLCL Research Unit. Co-sponsored by the Forum on Contemporary Europe, the English Department, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, the Center for African Studies, and the Stanford Humanities Center.


Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
-Columbia University