Researchers, teachers, and professionals in cultural arts and information management increasingly find themselves having to use words that belong to the field of testimony and memory. These words are associated with religion, history and law, or with literature and art, although they also “travel” to other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, and even the so-called “hard” sciences. Many thinkers today use testimony as a central notion and therefore must take into account its different manifestations and “memorial” frameworks. The time is right to critically reassess these concepts and notions, to identify and define them, and to think about their origins (in the event they come from other practices, fields or disciplines) and their effects (in case they influence other intellectual, academic or artistic creations). In making this collective search engine, we are aiming to maintain a distance from terms that, charged with emotion and histories, tend to polarize debates over intellectual and/or political power – sometimes even simple rivalries – as much today as they have in the past.

Stages of the project

This project will be implemented in two stages: each term of the “Index in progress” will be published twice, in the form of short and long entries. The short entries (approximately 400 words) will be published in a dictionary-like section in the journal Testimony Between History and Memory, beginning with issue no. 117 (March 2014). The long entries (1500 to 2200 words) will be presented on a directly accessible internet portal or via the websites of our various institutional partners.

The online Encyclopedia collects notions, concepts or expressions in historical or discipline-related categories. It stimulates cultural and linguistic approaches that emphasize, for example, differences in meaning or issues of “untranslatability” from one language to another. Several authors may contribute on one term, grounding reflection in their own discipline and allowing the possibility of debate. The entries will be divided into five areas: General lexicon; Theme-based section; Disciplines; Video recordings, and Memorial sites. With the goal of developing a critical view, part of this project shall be devoted to the many clichés that permeate discourse on testimony and memory, while another offers the possibility to watch 50-minute interviews on the work and thought of major intellectuals who have fueled reflection in these domains. The internet-accessible version will be updatable and will itself constitute a “work in progress”.

All entries will be available in English and French.

Project manager: Philippe Mesnard (UBP Clermont-Ferrand 2 – CELIS EA 1002 & Auschwitz Foundation Brussels)

Project supervision: Luba Jurgenson (Paris IV) and Philippe Mesnard

Coordination: Anneleen Spiessens (UGent)

Scientific Committee : Annette Becker (history), Christian Biet (performing arts), Anne Garrait (American studies), Luba Jurgenson (Slavic studies), Philippe Mesnard (comparative literature), Herman van Goethem (law and history) Régine Waintrater (psychology).

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