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Online-Meeting: Weaponizing History

Societas Oecumenica’s half-day online meeting

21 April 2023
14:00 to 17:00 (CET) in Zoom

‘History is written by the victor’, so the saying goes. Cynicism about historiography as such aside, this expression points to a key challenge of all forms of historical discourse: negotiating its ability to be ‘weaponized’. Such weaponization can lead to the removal of the historical narrative of people, communities or even entire nations and states, or, with similar negative results, the historical demonisation of ‘others’, such as the religious or cultural ‘other’. This can happen intentionally or unintentionally; in both cases, the consequences are dire. Especially as current practices and developments are anchored in the past, the way this past is presented is of key importance. In this way, conflicts and forms of marginalisation from the past continue in their presence through their continued weaponised remembrance.

Examples abound and invite one to be cautious in this respect. One may think of the ‘history lesson’ of President Putin a little over a year ago, in which he denied the historical existence of Ukraine, with the obvious implication that it has no right to exist as a state today either. One may also think about the continuation of historiographical clichés about Jews, which continue to serve to demonise an entire people. Within ecumenical theology, one can also think of the way the history of schisms is described: is it narrated as a liberation of the true church from the clutches of the Antichrist or as a parting of the ways in which both parties lost something? Ecclesial, political and social reconciliation, which are all intertwined in ecumenical theology, require a reconciliation of the narration of history and demands moving beyond its weaponization. Much has already been done in this field, yet much remains to be done. Hence, this online seminar is dedicated to the topic of the weaponization of history because as long as history divides people and the church, a common future is difficult to imagine, let alone inhabit.


14:00 First Part: Weaponizing History

Chair: Peter-Ben Smit

Presentations by:
Prof. Dr. Serafim (Seppälä), University of Eastern Finland
Remembrance in the shadow of denial: the aftermath of the Armenian genocide

The nation responsible for the Armenian genocide has vehemently denied the events and attempted to erase Armenian history in its lands. This denial has had a significant impact on the remembrance of genocide in various fields of Armenian culture. Unlike the aftermath of the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenians have had to struggle to ensure public acts of remembrance in Soviet Armenia and diaspora, even in the United States. History and memory have become a bitter battleground, and this struggle has turned into an integral part of Armenian identity.

Prof. Dr. Katja Tolstaya, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The Crucified Boy and Other Tales of the Russian Propaganda

Small group discussions, comments from lecturers and general discussion

16:00 Second Part: Meet and Greet – for members of Societas Oecumenica

Chair: Heta Hurskainen

Secretary’s Intermediate Report

Possibility of sharing information on books, projects, etc.

17:00 End of the online seminar


Registration deadline: 19. April 2023

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