Cristian Cercel: RUB SPECTRESS Fellow in Delhi

I spent three months on secondment at the Center for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (October-December 2017), where my mentor was Prof. Aditya Mukherjee. My scientific goal has been that of linking my research on representations of war, conflict, and trauma in European museums (focusing particularly on the Military History Museum in Dresden) with research on the same type of representations in Indian museums. Furthermore, the attempt to make the SPECTRESS visiting fellowship in India feed in my current research was also bound to make me revisit or look more in depth at the theoretical framework I am currently working with, namely that of agonistic memory. My research on agonism and war in European museums is part of a larger project called UNREST, which looks at several case studies: having the opportunity to broaden to a certain extent the scope of this research was what made the SPECTRESS experience particularly valuable for me.
Based on some preliminary research, I have identified two museums whose approach and focus tie in extremely well with the theoretical tenets of my research and also with the empirical interest for war, conflict, and trauma in museums, namely the “Conflictorium” in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and the Museum of Partition in Amritsar (Punjab). The former defines itself as a “museum of conflict”, which is particularly relevant in the local Ahmedabad/Gujarat context, considering that the city and the state have repeatedly been the site of intercommunal violence, the most recent riots taking place in 2002. The latter is a museum dedicated to the Partition of India. Both of them are new museums (inaugurated in 2013 and 2017 respectively) and hence a detailed analysis of them would fit in very well if it were possible to broaden the scope of the research. The staff at the Conflictorium was very helpful in facilitating my research (I am truly thankful to them for this!) and I am positive that the contacts developed in this context can lead to further cooperation and research. Tentatively, I would say that the Museum of Partition proposes very much a cosmopolitan discourse, whilst the Conflictorium attempts to present more of an agonistic discourse. Its focus on conflict and its distinct attempt to offer a space for counter-hegemonic discourses make the Conflictorium at first glance particularly compatible with agonism. Nonetheless, further research would be needed (much more in depth) in order to ascertain the degree of validity of these very tentative conclusions. Engaging with these two museums in particular and with the Indian case in general shows that the attempt to develop and refine an agonistic mode of remembering is worth being pursued.

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About Jennifer Edmond

Dr Jennifer Edmond, is the Director of Strategic Projects in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Trained as a scholar of German literature, Jennifer is mostly engaged professionally with the investigation of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Humanities research and in particular the impact of technology on these processes.
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