Architect Julian Abele's map of West Campus

Architect Julian Abele’s map of West Campus

Constructing Memory takes on the societal, cultural and neurological challenge of memory, social justice and memorialization at Duke. We mine memory studies to ask how, why and where people use the past for contemporary meaning and how lasting memories are created in the brain. We use our own campus and city to investigate how we can add difficult stories of slavery, segregation and inequality through new memory sites and interpretive plans. The question at the core of our inquiry is how to create sites around “dangerous memories” in an intentional, sensitive and constructive way, to foster learning and dialogue around issues like race, class, gender orientation and ethnicity. Students will research Duke and Durham history, map current history sites and collect untold stories. In Spring 2017, students registered in a Memory Bandits tutorial will integrate the digital map and Story Bank into a proposal to the Duke community for how to expand and create new sites of memory as well as a draft interpretive plan for inclusion into classes, campus tours and orientation for Freshman, new faculty and staff. Students will promote their ideas through a web site, opeds and other media. The proposal will be shared with the Provost, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Board of Trustees.

Boycott_all_classes_ORIGINALMemory Bandits Course

Students will learn about the intersection of human rights and memory studies. Held in Fall 2016 in collaboration with Story Lab and the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, the class includes a Bass research project that applies these ideas to Duke’s campus. Students may also register for Politics of Memory and work on related projects.

Digital Map and Story Bank

We will work with a map maker to create a digital representation of existing sites of memory at Duke, including statues and portraits. The map will show how the university currently tells its own story. The map will allow us to identify existing narratives as well as “memory deserts,” where new markers or sites could be located. Using archives, students will create a “story bank” of untold or little known stories, including protests and notable alumni of color and LGBTQ students, faculty and staff. Interested students can continue in a Spring 2017 tutorial.

PauliPauli Murray Project

Starting in Spring 2017, students will work with the PMP executive director Barbara Lau to draft an interpretive plan for Pauli Murray’s childhood home in Durham’s West End. Students will engage with scholars, activists, community members and others. Some students will be invited to continue work on this in Summer 2017.

Meet our team

  • Robin Kirk, Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, lecturer in Cultural Anthropology
  • Barbara Lau, Director of the Pauli Murray Project and folklorist
  • Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist

Associated members include Dr. Alison Adcock, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Irene Silverblatt, Cultural Anthropology; Tim Stahlman, CounterCartographies; Amy McDonald, University Archives; and Matthew Sebastian, PhD candidate, Cultural Anthropology.   Read about the project on the Bass Connections website.

Get involved and register in these classes:
Fall 2016

  • Memory Bandits (CulAnth 346.01, History/PubPol), Kirk and Stawski [T/TH 8:30-9:45] in Story Lab
  • Politics of Memory (CulAnth 403S,History/ICS), Silverblatt

Spring 2017

  • Painting Dangerous Memories (Women’s Studies), Barbara Lau
  • Memory Bandits tutorial, (CulAnth), Robin Kirk, in Story Lab