TAPAS/Thinking About The Past

Conference "(Dis)Claiming Pasts: Ownership, Responsibility and Contestation"

TAPAS/Thinking About the Past is pleased to announce its next conference on 14-15 December, 2017 in Ghent.

The aim of this workshop is to explore the different strategies, techniques and arguments used by individuals, groups or entire nations to (dis)claim particular pasts, and the different aims and motivations that underpin them. Confirmed keynote speakers are prof. Robert Meister from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Dr. George Nicholas from the Simon Fraser University in Canada. 

Tensions surrounding the ownership or control over (certain aspects of) the past are an increasingly common phenomenon. Various social and cultural groups demand ownership or control over, or the return of, artefacts or human remains to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity (e.g. the case of the Kennewick Man or the recently repatriated skulls of the Nama and Herero). Similarly, former colonies (re)claim archives produced by their former colonizers. Activists claim land or heritage sites that, they argue, historically belongs to them. But claiming pasts can involve more than claiming material remains. Corporations use historical figures or even entire historical periods for ‘retro- branding’ and politicians often refer to the legacy of famous predecessors to legitimize their views or positions. Conversely, there are many examples of individuals or groups who disclaim particular pasts because they are painful or shameful, or because they might come with unwanted (legal and other) responsibilities. 

Click here for more information.

About TAPAS, an Interdisciplinary Forum for Reflection on our Relation with the Past

In the course of the last few years, there has been a growing interest in our relationship with the past in a large variety of different cultural and social areas. Examples are historical trauma studies, history and memory, history and identity, history of science, as well as the more traditional philosophy and methodology of historiography. What is special about this tendency is that is its pre-eminent transdisciplinary character. There are tendencies to reflect on our relationship with the past in many different disciplines (historiography, literary sciences, post-colonial studies, jurisprudence, philosophy of science, sociology,…), but it does not hold a mainstream position in any of them. As a consequence, researchers who are interested in reflecting on our relation with the past often find themselves isolated within their own discipline.

The aim of this forum is to change this situation by bringing together young researchers from different disciplines who work on the reflection on our relationship with the past, whether or not this relation is popular, literary or scientific or whether or not it comes from a historiographical, philosophical, post-colonial, anthropological or sociological agenda. This initiative is meant in the first place for young researchers (pre- and post-doc) working in Belgium and the Netherlands, but in principle it is open to all. The main aim of this project is to give young researchers the opportunity to share their views with their colleagues, to create a broad intellectual network, to get feedback about their own work, and to organize transdisciplinary reading groups and workshops on topics which are too uncommon in their own discipline.


TAPAS is a forum which means that there is no single goal, approach or method. The intention is to bring together different approaches and methods rather than propagate one of them.