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Vytautas Magnus University

Association of Nordic Theatre Scholars

Association of Performing Arts Critics

Kaunas the European Capital of Culture 2022



International conference


26-28 April 2018, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania


Conference programme pdf: Theatre and memory wars conference program



Theatre and Memory Wars

The Department of Theatre Studies at Vytautas Magnus University and Association for Nordic Theatre Scholars (ANTS), 26-28 April 2018, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

The issue of ”memory wars” has been in the focus of academic research in the field of Baltic studies for quite a while. It relates both to the political violence and armed conflicts of the past and conflicting memories of the violent historical experiences in contemporary societies. The confrontation of different and often opposite interpretations of history appears particularly relevant with the recent rise of the rhetoric of war (information war, new cold war, hybrid warfare, war on terrorism, etc.) often relating to (or rooted in) the prior historical conflicts and their popular or institutional memory in different states and social groups. Although notably linked to contemporary political and social realities of Baltic States and Eastern Europe, the issue of memory wars has a broad appeal as it can focus on the conflicting, inconsistent and agonistic nature of historical evaluations and memories.

World War II and the violence of the Holocaust, as well as post-war occupations, mass deportations and political persecutions had a crucial impact on the cultures of history and memory in different countries around the Baltic sea and still support deep divisions along social and ethnic lines and along the lines of regional and European identities. By pointing out the roles that we take in the memories of war (the roles of victims or that of oppressors) as well as the ways of dealing with contested memories, sharing dramatic histories and cultivating empathy, the issue of memory wars makes theatrical practices especially relevant.

A number of theatre researchers have addressed theatre as a machine or a site of memory (Marvin Carlson, Freddie Rokem, Milija Gluhovic among others) shaping personal and cultural identities. The issue of the performative means of reconstructing the past and the understanding of history as a shifting range of meanings produced by different cultural, social and political practices (such as rituals of public memory, historical re-enactments, museums, memorials etc.) have been addressed in the international conference “The Past Is Still to Change: Performing History from 1945 to the Present”, organized in 2009 in Kaunas. With “memory wars” we can further explore the performativity of memory, going deeper into specific memories of conflicts and conflictuous memories, contested pasts and agonistic historiographies.

Rather than (or besides) asking how drama, theatre and performance function as instruments for shaping collective memories and identities we suggest turning to how theatre can mediate between different, opposing and fragmented memories. Can theatrical memory machines be used in negotiating contested pasts and what are the advantages of theatre as a social instrument of memory among others (monuments, museums, pictures)? How can the theatrical public sphere contribute to “domesticating” antagonistic histories on national and international levels? How are theatre historiographies affected by historical conflicts as well as frameworks of the politics of memory, memory wars and propaganda?


Conference committee:

Jurgita Staniškytė (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)

Freddie Rokem (Tel Aviv University, Israel)

Rūta Mažeikienė (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)

Magnus Thor Thorbergsson (University of Iceland, Iceland)

Stephen Wilmer (Trinity College, Ireland)

Thomas Rosendal Nielsen (Aarhus University, Denmark)

Edgaras Klivis (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)