What does the quest for roots in this century have to do with the losses suffered in the last? In a series of panels and conversations, renowned scholars, photographers, journalists, and curators explored the global interest in origins and the various forms of research and return enabled by new technologies.
Sponsored by the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia and the Graduate Center, CUNY, the two-day conference held on April 10-11, 2008 considered the political and aesthetic stakes of this journey into the past.
What, for instance, accounts for the appeal of genealogical testing? How do museums shape the future of nostalgia? What is the politics of return in post-Katrina New Orleans and in the Middle East?
Writers Saidiya Hartman, Eva Hoffman, and Daniel Mendelsohn talked about their recent memoirs of return to traumatic sites in Eastern Europe and Africa; photographers Susan Meiselas, Keith Calhoun, and Chandra McCormick, discussed visual archives of loss and recovery. The keynote "Between Returns" was delivered by Ha'aretz journalist Amira Hass, who was introduced by Aoibheann Sweeney, The Center for the Humanities, CUNY.