Virtual WiP: Hans Gutbrod on Ethics of Commemoration

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 5th talk of the 2021 Spring Series of the Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

Given the continuing COVID19 situation, the Works-in-Progress sessions will continue in virtual format until further notice. To register for the event and automatically receive the Zoom info, click on the link below:…/tZYod-ChqjkuHt0_aWVCc…

“Towards an Ethics of Commemoration — Reflections on Armenia’s Quest for Genocide Recognition”

By Hans Gutbrod, Ilia State University

Date: April 7, 2021, 18:30 Tbilisi time

How should we approach commemoration of suffering? Usually, empathy and common decency suggest we partake, and remain silent even if we have reservations. At the same time, a kind of sacralization of the past carries risks for the present and future, as Micheal Rothberg, Timothy Snyder and other authors have pointed out. The Armenian quest for genocide recognition can illustrate some of the risks of such an “absolute politics” (Rothberg), and yet Armenian commemoration also shows up the transformative approach taken by the Aurora Prize, of moving to a focus on affirming saviours everywhere, now.More broadly, this suggest that perhaps a framework akin to the Just War tradition may be useful, when history and memory are mobilized in political contexts. This ethics of commemoration could be a a kind of ius ad memoriae (whether it is appropriate to mobilize commemoration at all) and ius in memoria (how to use it sensibly, in promoting a better peace), that can help, as Michael Walzer put it about the Just War tradition, “to sustain a constant scrutiny and an immanent critique”. While there have been various critiques of mobilizing commemoration, this Ethics of Commemoration proposes a more structured approach that can accommodate Rothberg’s idea of “multidirectional memory”, and complements some of the pioneering work in Ireland, related to the 1916 Easter uprising and other centennials, by Louise Mallinder and Margaret O’Callaghan.

Hans Gutbrod is an Associate Professor at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.
Although this presentation will take place in virtual format, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.
WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.