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Why do we still talk about difficult periods in history? Call for researchers to submit papers

Why is it important that we talk about Auschwitz? Or the Killing Fields of Cambodia? Why is it important that difficult histories are told?

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Two Leeds Beckett PhD students and a PhD student from the University of York are organising a conference to look at the reasons why we need to discuss difficult histories, and are appealing for fellow researchers to submit their research on the topic.

Organiser Rhiannon Pickin, who is studying for her PhD in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett, is asking for fellow researchers and academics to contribute to the conference, ‘Difficult Heritage: Making Sense of Uncomfortable Histories’, which is being held at Bar Convent, York on 13 April. Rhiannon is organising the conference alongside students Dan Johnson and Lucie Wade.

Rhiannon said: “We have launched a call for papers because there are so many difficult or uncomfortable aspects to certain histories that need to be discussed today. There are also very few events that collectively focus on different types of difficult heritage, which is why we felt the need to organise this event.

“Emotional topics of history are still felt today in a variety of ways. For instance, many people will remember the removal of confederate statues in America’s southern states earlier this year. 

"These histories affect the lives of those who have a connection to them. The act of revisiting these topics or seeing and holding the objects of suffering can also affect people in different ways.

“At the conference in April, we hope to open a dialogue between academics, heritage, practitioners, early career researchers and other interested people to look at how difficult histories are researched, presented and disseminated, and what ethical considerations need to be taken into account when dealing with difficult histories.

“We also want to look at why it is important that these histories continue to be told.”

Rhiannon is inviting people to submit paper abstracts ahead of the conference next year. Suggested topics include dark tourism, atrocity and genocide studies, crime and penal heritage, slavery history, war and conflict, colonial history and the history of medicine.

Anyone interested in contributing to the conference is asked to send a 250-word abstract and a short biography to difficultheritage2018@gmail.com by 5 February 2018.

Rhiannon added: “We are really looking forward to reading the abstracts for this event. There are so many different types of difficult heritage, so we hope that it will be a day that showcases the brilliant and diverse research that is being done on this subject.”

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