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Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2019


From the outset Collective Memory-Work was intended to be an emancipatory method with a consciously open form. Over three decades the method has been successfully used in academic research in a variety of fields. It has been adapted and adjusted according to purposes of the applications, institutional frameworks, organisational necessities and methodological considerations, leading to further developments of the method. Narrative transformation, collective autoethnographic memory-work, mind-scripting, collective biography are some of the terms that reflect these developments. The symposium is meant to: foster an exchange about the use of CMW (its timeliness, its variations, the potential fields of application, its value in teaching, learning, research, social activism); create an opportunity to build networks for cooperation and knowledge exchange across geographical and disciplinary boundaries ; build bridges for an increased transfer of CMW into non-academic areas.


From 26th to 28th of August 2020 Maynooth University will host an international symposium on Collective Memory-Work.


Collectiv Memory-Work is a method developed by Frigga Haug and the group Frauenformen in the 1980s at the intersection of academic research, feminist and Marxist theory, and political practice. In its original format it entails a group reflecting on a topic of shared interest by using short written memory scenes of the group members as the core material. It can be used in, e.g., social research, adult education, social activist groups, professional reflection processes. Over more than three decades the method has been successfully used in a variety of fields. It has been adapted and adjusted according to purposes of the applications, institutional frameworks, organisational necessities and methodological considerations. For putting CMW into practice, the investments in terms of time, interpersonal openness, emotional involvement and analytic thought are rather high. Yet the reported experiences and the feedback of participants in all institutional settings on taking part in CMW projects overwhelmingly confirm personal gains, growth, now horizons, increased understanding of complex issues as common results. In reports about CMW projects the fascination that participants feel for the method is a re-occurring theme. There is an attraction in doing CMW that other methods don’t similarly carry with them. Ironically though, in spite of the character of the method in its reliance on collectivity and collaboration amongst participants, many practitioners of CMW seem to be rather isolated when it comes to discussing their own experiences with the method. The symposium is an attempt to counter this isolation by providing a forum for exchange of experiences, and fostering networks on an international plane. The method has been picked up by groups in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand. In every application the method requires an adaptation to local circumstances. Originally CMW relies on written texts as material for analysis, but various efforts have been made to also include, e.g. photographs, drawings, drama in a number of projects. Questions that are discussed in literature on CMW concern issues like collectivity and leadership, group dynamics, entry modes, institutional context, status of participants, centrality of language, text-analysis, emancipatory potential, status of experience/s, types of knowledge generated in CMW, therapeutic effects vs. therapy, validity and transferability of results. What is missing though is a comprehensive discussion of the gains and losses, advantages and disadvantages of methodical adjustments and developments of CMW, their rationale and practical challenges encountered. The symposium will provide a forum for such a discussion. We try to bring together people from different backgrounds who have a shared interest in CMW, regardless of their institutional or professional status, or their disciplinary affiliation. If we only look at the academic disciplines in which CMW has been used we find, e.g. sociology, psychology, gender studies, cultural studies, business studies, sport and leisure studies, education and teacher training, arts education, political science. Outside academia the method has been used in adult education, within trade unions, vocational education, political parties and social activist groups. We hope this multiplicity of backgrounds can also be represented by the participants at the symposium, offering opportunities for exchanges that otherwise are rarely possible.

The format of sessions

The format of sessions at the symposium will differ from most academic conferences. It is essential that there will be time enough to engage in discussion. Time slots allocated to each session will be at least 90 minutes. For each session there will be only one contribution scheduled.

Proposals for contributions in the symposium are welcome on a background of practical experience or theoretical critique of CMW, its adaptations and derivations (or aspects thereof). In line with the idea of providing a space for intense exchange about the method, its underpinnings, its fit in different settings (institutional or non-institutional), contributions are meant to open up discussion. Obviously reports of applications in specific settings are welcome. But it is equally possible to use a session at the symposium as a space for probing and critically examining in a peer environment positions, suggestions, questions, and conceptual thoughts that arise out of a particular engagement with the method.

If a contributor intends to use a traditional format of a presentation followed by a discussion, the presentation should not exceed 30 minutes, allowing for at least an hour of discussion.

Contributors are however also encouraged to see the session as a workspace in which they can engage with the participants by using participatory methods and experimental formats.

Submission Guidelines

When submitting a proposal for a contribution please include a brief outline of the format envisaged.

For your proposal, please use the template provided on the event webpage.

Deadline for Proposals for Contributions: 31st of January, 2020

Decision on Proposed Contributions: 29th of February, 2020

In addition to the scheduled sessions it is also intended to reserve sufficient time slots for ad-hoc open space meetings (e.g. as a follow-up from a scheduled session, or as a space where spontaneously discovered common interests, and particularly future projects and collaboration can be discussed).

To make the material that comes together as a result of the symposium widely available it is intended to publish an edited reader of contributions and reflections on the symposium, in two formats:

a) as a print version of the reader;

b) as an open access online-publication on a dedicated webpage, and via repositories like, e.g., SSOAR.

Presenters and participants are equally encouraged to contribute to the reader.

Organising Committee

  • Robert Hamm, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University
  • The Berlin Institute of Critical Theory


  • North Campus - Maynooth, County Kildare, Republic of Ireland
    Maynooth, Ireland


  • Friday, January 31, 2020


  • Collective Memory-Work, Participatory Research, Adult Education, Research as Intervention, Self-Determined Learning


  • Robert Hamm
    courriel : robert [dot] hamm [at] mu [dot] ie

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Robert Hamm
    courriel : robert [dot] hamm [at] mu [dot] ie


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Collective Memory-Work », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, https://calenda.org/665242

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