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Policy Talk Series: Ethics of Political Commemoration- Applying a New Paradigm to Remembrance

Picture of Hans Gutbrod. Pictured with a beard and a stripped button up shirt.
Wednesday, January 17, 2024, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

The Department of Public Policy brings you the Policy Talks Series as a way to engage critically with today's global and local issues. Our speakers range from policy practitioners and researchers to diplomats and agency leaders to NGO and social responsibility leaders. The events feature a panel discussion, followed by a Q&A session, and a reception.
Drinks and snacks will be offered.


Questions of remembrance seem to divide many societies. As a recent landmark report on Memory Management in Central and Eastern Europe noted, “memory has penetrated right to the core of the political problems of our time, and the problems of politics of our time”. [David Gaunt and Tora Lane, 2021]


Are these debates interminable, or can they potentially be resolved? This talk will argue that an "Ethics of Political Commemoration" can help to at least order many of the debates on remembrance. Based on the just war tradition, such a multi-dimensional paradigm can ensure that multiple considerations are covered. The framework provides a richer description of how commemoration can succeed, and where it fails -- in museums, with statues and street signs, and really in most authoritative appeals to the past. 


This ethical perspective seeks to complement the dominant genealogical and encyclopaedic (or descriptive) approaches to questions of memory. While grounded in theory, the Ethics of Political Commemoration can also contribute practical guidance, for citizens, scholars, and decisionmakers.  


About the speaker

Hans Gutbrod is a Professor at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He has written on politics, ethics, and commemoration, and works as a consultant in policy research. Together with colleagues, Hans led a high-impact campaign to increase the transparency of research funding, Transparify. He previously was the regional director of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC). Hans has been working in the Caucasus region since 1999 and holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. His recent book "Ethics of Political Commemoration: Towards a New Paradigm" (with David Wood, 2023) proposes that the just war tradition can help to order public debates on remembrance.