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Pasts in the Making

An International Conference on Historical Awareness and Agency

Dates: 10-11 November 2022

A group of leading international and Danish scholars will explore the ways people use the past as opening a privileged perspective on who we are and our social action. This exploration will advance our understanding of how different views of the pasts emerge, how this affects agency, and how this mutual determination of action and historical perception might be influenced by furthering scientific knowledge.

The participants, mainly anthropologists and historians, will bring their ethnographic and historical research data from Melanesia, a culturally diverse area in the Pacific. We focus on Melanesia because the distinctly different ways people in Melanesia experience time will challenge our European assumptions and habitual attitudes. Challenging what we take for granted will greatly stimulate critical reflections on theories of time and history that mostly originate in European and will enable us to gain much needed distance to make substantive theoretical advances.

During the two days there will 14 short talks followed by discussion. There will be no separate panels as we are keen to detect syntheses between concepts and approaches.

Preliminary programme 

Day 1 (9am – 5pm) 

Jaap Timmer and Ton Otto – opening and introduction 

Eric Hirsch, History and Anthropology, Brunel University London 

Joel Robbins, Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Borut Telban, Anthropology, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts 

Anna-Karina Hermkens, Gender Studies and Anthropology, Macquarie University

Rosa Moiwend, Independent Scholar, West Papua

Michael W. Scott, Anthropology, London School of Economics

Ton Otto, Anthropology, Aarhus University

Day 2 (9am – 5pm)

Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, Australian National University

Chris Ballard, Archaeology and History, Australian National University

Christiane Falck, Anthropology, University of Göttingen

Jaap Timmer, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University

Jan Ifversen, History, Aarhus University

Nicholas Thomas, History and Collections, Cambridge University


The conference is open to all, researchers, students and industry and others interested in the topic. To attend the conference, a registration fee of DKK 200 applies.

The conference fee includes coffee/ tea, fruit/ cake, and a lunch buffet for both days.

Registration deadline: 20 October 2022.


The conference has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (through AIAS), The Institute of Culture and Society (Aarhus University), and the Carlsberg Foundation