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Urban Violence and Collective Memory in the Americas

While some regions and cities of the Americas continue to experience an underlying level of systemic violence, many have also been facing recent spikes of unrest due to political crises. In recent years, citizens massed in the streets of cities like Bogota and Minneapolis, to denounce economic reforms and state violence. These protests sometimes led to extremely violent responses from the public authorities. Moreover, while some commentators observed a decrease in urban violence in the Americas during the first months of the Covid-19 crisis, the violence swiftly returned to its pre-pandemic level, and even rose in some cities, especially those in Latin America and the Caribbean.   

In this context of recurring crisis, collective memory plays a central role in understanding the dynamics of violence in cities; it also constitutes an important resource for those impacted, involved or traumatized by urban violence. Many events and practices related to violence and memory are taking place in the Americas. Calls for new and alternative sites of memory, such as the memorials commemorating police violence in Chicago or lynching in Memphis, are being heard, while other long-standing ones are being hotly contested. Furthermore, the memorialization of violence is significantly accelerating, as a result of the development of social networks and digitalization in general. 

This transdisciplinary conference will bring together geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, activists and artists from the Americas and Europe to look at the dynamics of urban violence in the Americas. Internationally established experts will conduct dialogues on topics associated with commemorations, museums, reconciliation with gang violence, criminal governance, organized crime, lynchings and feminicides. Case studies will feature cities as diverse as Medellin, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Managua, Mexico City and Caracas. Five panels will take place at the University of Geneva, and the event will conclude with a round-table and concerts at the Kzern, a former military compound recently transformed into a cultural centre in downtown Geneva.  

Provisional programme 

Complete programme available the 15th of August. 

The conference is in English, except the round-table in Spanish with English/French translation. 

Friday 16th of September (Unimail, MR 280 / MR 030) 

9:00 - Welcome 

9:30 - Panel 1: Urban Violence and Transnational Memories 

11:30 - Panel 2: Cities as Memorialscapes 

15:30 - Panel 3: Violence and Punishment in the Neoliberal Era 

18:30 – Keynote from Victoria Sanford (City University of New York):

Textures of Terror: Feminicide and Impunity in Guatemala. 

Saturday 17th of September (Unimail, MR 280 / MR 030) 

9:00 - Panel 4: Memory as a Resource for Resistance 

11:00 - Panel 5: Memorializing Gang Violence and Organized Crime 

14:00 – Keynote from Dennis Rodgers (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies):

Memories of contemporary Violence: Enduring Histories of Gangs, Drugs, and War in urban Nicaragua. 

16:00 - Traces of Violence in the City of Peace: Guided urban Trek in the Streets of Geneva 

Saturday 17th of September (Kzern) 

18:00 – Round-Table: Collective Memory and Youth Activism in Colombia 

21:00 – Live Music, El Aka (Hip-Hop from Colombia) and Max Turner (Rhythm & Poetry) 

 

 

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