Lectures & Events

Collective Memory: How the Present Shapes the Past Told through a Philadelphia Story About George Washington and Slavery
Louis C. Greenwood Lecture - CISCDR Distinguished Interdisciplinary Lecture, presented by the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Conflict & Dispute Resolution
MAR 2, 2011
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Moot Courtroom (A59)
CLE Credit
Approved for 1.0 hour of in-person CLE credit

Collective memory is increasingly discussed as an important feature of large group behavior. Prof. Ross will outline conceptual tools for the analysis of collective memory and how present needs shape what is told and retained about the past: narratives, symbols and rituals, and symbolic landscapes as well as an empirically useful way to understand collective memory and its role in ethnic and racial conflict and conflict mitigation. To illustrate the approach, he will consider the case of race in the United States and especially the phenomenon of slavery in both the north and the south. He will emphasize the role of selective forgetting in the north and how only in recent years has the story of slavery and segregation there been publicly considered.

The specific conflict he will describe and analyze has gone on for the past nine years in Philadelphia concerning George Washington and the nine enslaved Africans who lived in the President’s House in the city from 1790-1797. The house that was torn down in the 1830’s was a block away from Independence Hall—where the national narrative of freedom and liberty is celebrated, and the former slave quarters is almost directly under the present entrance to the Liberty Bell Pavilion where the bell is housed. Unlike the simple story that was told in Independence Hall National Park, we should ask how can this complex braided history of freedom and slavery that not only is found on this site but throughout the country in its first 77 years be told together?

In Philadelphia, there have been contentious debates, strong disagreements and complicated and painful discussions about Washington, slavery in the north, and the nine enslaved individuals—two of whom escaped to freedom. These debates reveal a good deal about what is, and is not, included in collective narratives, how selective narratives are remembered or forgotten, and reinforced or discouraged. The story of this conflict offers a challenge to law and society and shows the power of collective memories unleashing and resolving long-standing, deep cultural conflicts.
Speaker Information
Marc Howard RossMarc Howard Ross
William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor
Department of Political Science
Bryn Mawr College

Marc Howard Ross was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University and is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College where he has taught since 1968. He has done research in Canada, East Africa, France, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and most recently in Spain, and South Africa. His current work has two major themes (1) the role that cultural performance and memory play in the escalation and deescalation of ethnic conflict and (2) social science theories of conflict and their implications for conflict management He has written or edited eight books including Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict, (Cambridge, 2007), Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies: Contestation and Symbolic Landscapes (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) The Culture of Conflict and The Management of Conflict (Yale University Press, 1993), and over 75 articles chapters that have appeared in academic journals and books.

Ross is especially concerned with the role that cultural expressions and enactments such as language, parades, music, flags, clothing, museums, memorials, museums and sacred sites play in the definition and expression of collective memories and identities in diverse societies. In his talk, he will ask how these lead to intense contestation at times while at others these symbolic and ritual expressions are more inclusive and redefine membership in the community, group or nation in ways that reduces conflict and differences. From his perspective collective memories are selective and regularly constructed and reconstructed. To examine this process he will look at the recent public conflict in Philadelphia over the construction and design of a memorial to the enslaved Africans who lived in the President's House from 1790-97, one block away from Independence Hall.
Additional Information
Open to the public at no cost.

One FREE hour of CLE credit will be available to lawyers who attend.

At one-hour CLE activities, Ohio Supreme Court regulations require attorneys to be present for the entire hour to obtain credit. Therefore, registration for one-hour lectures will close at the time the event is scheduled to start. Everyone is welcome to attend the lecture, but we cannot submit CLE credit for late arrivals.

At events longer than one hour, we will submit credit based on an attorney’s arrival time and duration of attendance, but no less than the minimum of one full hour of attendance.

We encourage attendees to arrive at registration 20 minutes prior to the start of a lecture to sign in, obtain materials, and be seated.

There is no law school parking, however, public parking, for a fee, is available in the Cleveland Botanical Garden parking underground garage. Also, meter parking might be available.

Recording in any form is prohibited.

Supplemental Readings:
· Bibliography
· Political Psychology of Competing Narratives
· Flags, Heroes, and Statues

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