Session 2 - Imaginaries of future safety

Imaginaries of future safety

Dr. Susan Hogervorst (Open University)
Testimonies against terrorism. The use of the past to control the future - Conference contribution withdrawn
In 2011, the European Commission established the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), an EU-wide umbrella network connecting key organisations and networks of local actors involved in preventing radicalisation to terrorism and violent extremism. This network includes over 3000 stakeholders from all EU member states, such as social and health workers, teachers, policy makers, as well as organisations of victims of terrorism. In a special working group, the network not only represents and supports these victim groups (both people who have been targets of an attack and those who have lost a relative), but also actively encourages victims of terrorism to publically testify of their experiences. Transmitting the voices of the victims of terrorism is part of prevention efforts to counter radicalisation and future terrorism, and to promote democratic values.1

The practice of giving testimony in order to prevent the past from repeating itself is not new. In fact, it seems to be a continuation of WW2 and Holocaust memory culture, in which, from the 1960 onwards, survivors have gradually become key figures, and capturing eyewitness testimonies for future generations have become a key practice (Wieviorka 2006, Hogervorst 2020). However, whereas the initiatives from the late 1970s to collect testimonies came from scholars from the Jewish community, or from organisations of former resistance members – in short: from below – terrorism testimonies seem to be produced in a highly institutionalized context. Moreover, besides juridical, moral and pedagogical aspects, WW2 and Holocaust testimony practices have strong historiographical objectives as well, as a means of collecting evidence for future historical research. What exactly are the aims of and expectations from testimonies in the context of countering radicalisation terrorism – What is considered a good testimony in this context? Based on a close reading of the public documents produced by the particular RAN working group, as well as interviews with the working group staff, this paper explores the explicit and underlying notions of the nature and value of testimonies in the context of EU counterterrorism initiatives. (June 2020).

Darja Jesse (Freie Universität Berlin) 
“A Potential Threat to the World”? The visual framework of safety in post-war Germany
Concepts of art and safety are closely intertwined in my research project.
My dissertation deals with the American zone of occupation in Germany after World War II and analyses how the USA dealt with art from the National Socialist era. The subject of my research is the German War Art Collection (GWAC) – around 8.300 artworks that were confiscated in Germany by the U.S. Army and brought to the USA in 1947. The artworks had been commissioned mainly by the Wehrmacht during the war.
The aim of this project was – at least this was repeatedly emphasized in documents – to implement the Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945, which required "to prevent all Nazi and militarist activity or propaganda.” Captain Gordon W. Gilkey, who had been charged with the GWAC, concluded his report with the words: “If it had been left in Germany, it would have been a potential threat to the world through its future reinstallation and German misuse.” Thus, the GWAC was part of the democratization process and the politics of safety in post-war Germany.
Today, most of the GWAC’s artworks are part of the Deutsches Historisches Museum’s collections in Berlin. However, around 500 objects are still kept in the USA. This collection not only shows how art can affect politics of safety, but also vice versa: how politics of safety can shape the concept of what is considered art. In my talk I will discuss the GWAC in the contexts of re-education, democratization and heritage-making.

Jilt Jorritsma (Open University)
A Future in Ruins: History, Memory and Space in the Imagination of Sustainable Futures in Amsterdam, New York and Mexico City
This paper aims to reveal the particularity of how different cultures imagine safe and sustainable urban futures that are resilient to the challenges of climate change. Due to the accelerated rise of sea levels and global temperatures, several of the world’s major cities are slowly sinking into the sea, while others subside into the earth due to groundwater evaporation. Adaptation to these problems is highly reliant on the development of future imaginaries: predictive narratives, images and maps that visualize future realities in which submergence is either averted or already an accomplished fact. Current research on such imagined futures, however, tends to conceptualize global warming as a singular and common problem, thereby overlooking the cultural specificity of such imaginaries across different geopolitical areas. This paper highlights the spatial dimensions of climate adaptation: it compares future imaginaries (policy plans) of three sinking cities: Amsterdam, New York and Mexico City, and asks how site-specific memories and histories are used in the imagination of sustainable and safe urban futures.

This paper suggests that site-specific histories play an important role in the adaptation to the challenges of climate change. In the case of Amsterdam, resilient strategies are imagined as a possible return to a “natural”, pre-industrial time; in New York, submergence is presented as a possible return to a pre-Hudson time; and in Mexico City, submergence opens up the urban environment to a pre-conquistador time during which the city was an island within Texcoco Lake. In all cases, the past is seen as a possibility to imagine alternative and sustainable future trajectories.