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Cres Manifesto for Slow Memory Scholarship

Cres Manifesto for Slow Memory Scholarship

In this era of rapid acceleration, scholars are subjected to unprecedented pressures to deliver at a pace that is unsustainable. The “boom” in memory studies and memory practice since the 1980s is one expression of this sped-up environment. We operate in systems that require the fulfillment of simultaneous roles of teacher, researcher, administrator, manager, counselor, networker and more. All of these roles are shaped by embeddedness in the regime of neoliberalism in the Anthropocene. Imperatives and deadlines of scholarship are determined by funders, institutional concerns, and administrative checklists, rather than the needs of high-quality, rigorous and engaged research. This is not only detrimental to our health and wellbeing but leads to mediocre research at best and to missing key insights about (slow) memory at worst.

Slow memory conceptualizes practices of remembrance that are ‘multi-sited’, ‘eventless’ and refer to slow-moving phenomena. But we are hampered in our ability to study these processes by a 24-hour news cycle coupled to a 24-hour academic assembly line. To succeed in this system we are expected to work at such a breakneck speed that it seems the only options are to keep the pace at an unsustainable rate or drop out. We believe there is another way that involves slowing down our research methods, processes and thinking. To this end, we propose the Cres Manifesto.

Find your island!

Engaging in research about slow-moving pasts and slow practices of remembering requires that we slow down ourselves. This presents an enormous challenge in the context of the accelerated pace of academia. To create time and space to step out of those fast-flowing currents, find and travel to an island! It can be an actual island like Cres or Portland: the act of moving there temporarily, the feeling of being on or near water, can create a shift in perspective and space to think. Alternatively, consider how you can create your own spatial, temporal or mental islands on a regular basis.

Don’t be afraid to get lost and wander!

You find the most interesting things when you go off the beaten track. In the endless treadmill of keeping up to speed with and meeting our interminable deadlines, we are obliged to set explicit and ultimately restrictive objectives. In so doing, we leave little or no scope to go off-piste and learn en-route. Slowing down and factoring in time to make the most of the unexpected discoveries of the journey will help us unearth new findings and broaden the scope of our memories and how they are shaped.

Mind the gaps and listen to the silences!

In the inherent rush to keep pace or step aside, we deprive ourselves and our research of the benefit of contingent discovery. For it is often in the cracks and chinks where the most innovative and enlightening discoveries can be made. And this is all the more the case in the realm of memory where the silenced and marginalized are all too often passed over. Being captured by the loudest voices or the seemingly brightest discoveries is a trap. Slowing down to ensure that this does not happen must be a fundamental element in our approach. 

Activate all your senses!

The slowing of our approach provides time and space for a more rounded appreciation of our environment and our relationship to it. We are therefore afforded greater freedom and scope to deploy all our senses to enrich our appreciation of the past and not just those that define stereotypical, deadline-oriented, academic expectations. We need fewer vision statements and more quiet listening. Fewer flavors of the month and more gentle aromas. We need to shout less and spend more time watching and waiting. Memory studies can benefit from an inclusion of a wider palate of sensory analysis, and how these trigger our understanding of processes from nostalgia to the recovery of forgotten pasts.

Dig where you stand!

Slowing down demands a deeper appreciation of where we are. Instead of rushing from one shallow objective to another, take the time to fully appreciate, explore, and enjoy where we find ourselves in the here and now. Engaging slowly and in greater depth with our actual environment can enhance our appreciation of it and help forge a greater level of affinity and understanding of our past. We need to learn to savor the joys of the past and carefully endure and witness the pain and distress of the world around us. This also means taking responsibility for the past, because as inhabitants of this planet, we are implicated.

Take a journey together!

A successful academic is today a lonely academic…with all the nefarious and ludicrous consequences that ensue. Equally, teamwork that merely involves a joint race to the finish is joyless and often pointless. Inculcating slowness to how we work reopens space for deep and meaningful relationships to form, develop, and flourish. Slowing down to facilitate this inherently lengthy process – not often possible in modern day academia – paves the way for the advantages that emerge from truly collaborative relationships grounded in genuine trust and mutual appreciation. Memory studies involves analyzing the connections between individual recollection and collective remembrance, and transdisciplinary memory scholarship flourishes from dynamic intellectual exchange. 

It’s not the size that matters!

Whose size is it anyway? In the metrics-driven, performance management, high-speed world of modern academia, our work (and existences) have come to be defined by key performance indicators and deliverables that have led us to lose sight of what really matters to us as researchers and as people. Step off that treadmill, slow down, and reconsider such imperatives; take the time to forge what defines the deliverables of the future and those that are really worthy of our time, energy, and sacrifice. Become immeasurable, cultivate the as-yet-undeliverable. Slowing down should not be a privilege of only experienced scholars, but should be a common goal across the board to balance top-notch research with individual and community well-being. 

Make the system work for you, not the other way around!

The modern-day academic system, with its multi-facetted, never-ending demands and expectations, obliges academics to be fast-moving cogs that serve only to keep the machine moving. But the machine is fundamentally broken. Our efforts may well keep the system afloat but our well-being and capacity to produce meaningful research (the reason we all came into this game in the first place) are compromised. Invert the model. Slow down. Prioritize what really matters. Find allies within and without. Our research in memory studies is valuable not only to academic institutions but to state and other social actors; don’t be afraid to use leverage and negotiate working conditions on your own terms.

Slow scholarship does not negate urgent action!

Our concept of slowness is not to be confused with inaction…on the contrary. We believe that our call to slow down will help us better identify and appreciate the most urgent and pressing issues of our time – particularly those that have long suffered from neglect. Furthermore, slowing down will also help us define innovative, efficient, and effective solutions to such challenges that require our most urgent attention. Slowing down is the way to properly take stock and to find the appropriate way to act. There is much to be done, and seemingly little time left to do it. And yet we must avoid the double traps of being too overwhelmed to act and rushing pointlessly towards meaningless goals.

No slow jokes!

You think we haven’t heard them all before? Really?  We can’t do any of this without humor. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

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