International Conference on Memory Studies at IIT Madras 2-4 October 2019

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences


Event, Memory, Re-Membering: One Hundred Years of Jallianwalla Bagh (2-4 October 2019)

Concept Note and Call for Papers

Event, Memory, Re-membering: One Hundred Years of Jallianwalla Bagh

The centenary of Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, also known as Amritsar massacre, occurs at a particularly challenging time in the history of independent India when history is being rewritten and reconstituted from different vantage points, sometimes with ideological biases and sometimes with the intent of foregrounding ‘the forgotten’. This conference is an attempt to enquire into the ways in which Jallianwalla Bagh has been documented/remembered in the last one hundred years in various narratives and spaces, both public and personal. We propose to use Jallianwalla Bagh as a prefatory event to help enter the complex as well as overlapping discourses on nationalism, historiography, memory and event. Moving beyond the narrativisation of the event per se this conference seeks to generate a pioneering platform for exploring intersections in Memory Studies, Digital Humanities and Virtual Reality. In the contemporary, remembering a century-old act of violence that largely informed the anti-imperialist discourse and accelerated the course of nationalist movement in pre-Independent India is also an exercise in recreating a traumatic event lost in historiographic elisions. It is in this context that the methods and practices of Humanities find complementary alliances in the tools of Digital Humanities and Virtual Reality Research. Identifying, for instance, parallels between ‘empathy and simulation’ or ‘imagination and virtual reality’ or ‘historical archives and VR images’ we hope to be able to critically engage with existing scholarship as well enable pathbreaking research in these emergent fields.

The legacy of the event lies largely in the symbolic ways in which the place Amritsar became the nation itself, giving the much needed momentum for Gandhian nationalism. For the same reason, political or academic engagement with Jallianwalla Bagh has rarely been seen as problematic; mostly because, unlike other violent occurences such as Partition or Chauri Chaura or Emergency, this event is presented entirely as a reminder of the Empire’s brutality and violence. The massacre which is now described as a ‘monstrous’ and ‘shameful’ event in British colonial history, thus, was always already a significant footnote in Indian nationalist historiography. In this context, this conference encourages to look at ‘memory’ and ‘remembering’ as personal as well as political acts, getting legitimised through various discursive strategies. We invite scholarship that would critically engage with event-narratives, by examining the process of memory formation and the legitimation of dominant discourses in historiography. Thus, we aim to engage with the event through Memory Studies research, whereby remembering and forgetting emerge as personal as well as political activities, which are experientially and discursively disseminated and consumed. Such activities are often not ontological opposites but emerge as an entanglement through which events are strategically and selectively re-membered as well as dis-membered in public discourses. Thus a key question that will emerge in this conference will be based on the politics and the production of forgetting, notably exemplified in this case by the absence, until very recently, of any acknowledgement of this event in British public discourses, either in the historiography of the Empire or in the form of political apologies.

At this conference, in keeping with the current Cognitive Studies’ preference of examining memory as a process of active re-creation rather than passive recollection, we attempt to virtually recreate the event of Jallianwalla Bagh thereby making history accessible in more experiential terms. Texts and narratives including literature, movies, music, archival material, photographs, monuments etc about such events can serve as potential sites of enquiry in alignment with VR tools. Using technology as an emotional and evocative medium, alongside other narratives, many interdisciplinary possibilities for research may be opened up under the broad area of Memory studies. It also, most importantly, seeks to showcase how a violent event from the past with overt imperial/political undertones could be used as a starting point in locating the interstices of literature, memory, empathy and virtual reality.

We invite papers based on original research, focusing on but not limited to the following broad and related themes:

  • Event, nation and narratives
  • Event, memory and archived history
  • Event, nation and forgetting
  • Event, forgetting and forgiving
  • Traumatic and narrative memories
  • Collective memory and hegemonic historical knowledge
  • Nationalist historiography and its limits
  • Imperialism, resistance and re-membering
  • The politics of producing and consuming history
  • Fact, fabulation and fiction

Selected presenters will be invited to contribute to an edited volume to be brought out by Springer. Further details will be provided after the conference.

Venues and timings:

Inaugural Event on 2 October 2019 in IC&SR Auditorium, IIT Madras from 3.45 pm onwards.

Conference proceedings on 3-4 October 2019 in Halls I, II & III in IC&SR building, IIT Madras.

Important Dates and Notes:

Deadline for sending Abstracts to  is 15 August 2019.

A 250-word abstract written in 12-sized Times New Roman font, 1.5 line spacing, justified, with your paper title, your name, your Email address, and your institutional affiliation to be sent in Word document only.

The selected presenters will be notified by E-mail before 1 September 2019.

Please send in the full papers before 25 September 2019.


Paper presenters will be provided accommodation from 2-4 October 2019 (only for two nights) in Taramani Guest House, IIT Madras upon request.


Registration desks will be open on 2 October 2019 from 2.30 pm onwards in the IC&SR building, Ground floor.

Registration fee: INR 4000 (payable in cash). Includes accommodation conference kit, refreshments and two conference lunches.

Registration fee: INR 3000 (payable in cash). Includes conference kit, refreshments and two conference lunches.

Faculty Convenors of the conference:

Dr Merin Simi Raj & Dr Avishek Parui

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

IIT Madras, Chennai, India


For enquiries: &


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