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AIAS Symposium: Family, Memory and Identity

Date: 23-24 May 2018


The family has long been a central unit of social organisation, understood as key to child development, the production of personal and familial identity, and the transmission of values. It is a unit of political significance, identified as the ‘nursery of the nation’ from at least the medieval period and thus subject to significant analysis and intervention. The family is also implicated in the production of nations, where particular families (not least monarchies) and family stories become national histories – defining the boundaries of who belongs and who does not. Such processes of identity-making require a range of forms of inheritance and memory-making, whether at a personal level in stories told to children or the ways that family becomes embedded in heritage sites and museums to explain our national stories. This symposium explores the relationship between family, memory and identity, asking how family is defined, articulated and transmitted to its members and those beyond; how inheritances, storytelling and processes of memory-making become implicated in these processes; and how various forms of identity are produced through family memory, from the personal to the national. It is particularly interested in the diversity of ways that family has been understood and memorialised over time and to the present, including but not limited to fictive kin, single person families, LGBT families, and friendship-families.


Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS), Aarhus University, Buildings 1630-1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. See location on a map.

Invited keynote speakers

Programme and Abstracts

See the programme here

Read the abstract here

Participation and registration

The symposium is open to all. The registration fees for the symposium are:

  • DKK 550,- (75 EURO) for academics from postdoc level and up (presenters as well as non-presenters). 
  • DKK 200,- (27 EURO ) for students and PhD students (presenters & non-presenters).

Both fees cover catering during the two days (lunch, coffee breaks and welcome reception) and include a VAT of 25%.


Call for Papers: CLOSED

We invite proposals for papers that explore the symposium theme. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Families and personal identity
  • Families in national history and heritage
  • Family, politics and memory
  • Family and memory studies
  • Families and technologies of intimacy
  • Genealogies, family histories, ancestry DNA
  • Objects of family identity – photographs, clothes, jewellery, inheritances
  • Emotion, affect, intimacy as memory/identity
  • Commemorating family, storytelling
  • Making identity in the absence of family

Papers that expand our understanding or interrogate the boundaries of family, identity and memory are particularly welcome. This is an explicitly inter and multi-disciplinary event and we welcome proposals from people in any discipline exploring this topic.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words, and a short bio, should be emailed to Katie Barclay, katiebarclay@aias.au.dk by 15 March 2018. Questions or queries can also be addressed to the above.

Image: ‘The Merry Family’, Jan Havicksz Steen (1668), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.