“The past is not dead, it is not even past.”   -William Faulkner

How societies remember and forget is a complex process of social memory that is intimately connected to group relations of power, (in)equality, and social (in)justice. New challenges have emerged to constructing our individual and collective identities as many seemingly stable conceptions of the significance of belonging in the nation-state fragment under the weight of rapid socio-economic transformations. Counternarratives of social memory have also emerged from disenfranchised and oppressed communities to reclaim histories of cultural trauma and resilience. Recognizing how the past has shaped the present, as well as how present power relations shape social memory, has become an area of scholarly interest and political activism. It is also a core area of decolonizing social work.


My research in the early 2000s focused on teaching interdisciplinary social science courses on social memory. 



Clarke, Kris (2007) “Critical Intercultural Pedagogy in Reconciliation Education: A Finnish Example.” Conflict and Reconciliation: Education in the 21st Century. (Edited by Fiona Leach and Máiréad Dunne, University of Sussex). London: Peter Lang Publishers. [Book chapter]


Clarke, Kris (2005) Critical, Multicultural Education for Remembering and Reconciliation: A Discussion of an Interdisciplinary Social Science Course for International Students in Finland. Compare. British Association for International and Comparative Education, 35, (4), 479-494. [Available online here]



My current research interests are in the intersection of social memory and decolonization.


To read more about social memory, click on the links below:


Remembering, Forgetting and Forgiveness: Justice and Reconciliation from the National to the International


Taught several times between 2001-2004 at the University of Tampere, Finland

This was an interdisciplinary course aimed at exploring the construction of the significance of justice and memory in conflict and societal processes of reconciliation. Social identity, history and justice are constructed through personal and collective memories. Some memories have more power and become dominant narratives while others are repressed and become silenced counter-narratives. Memory thus has personal, communal and political aspects.


Starting from ethical, legal and theological perspective on the notion of justice, the course explored the significance of memory in personal, everyday and community experiences of reconciliation. The government-sponsored research project on the Finnish Civil War (Suomen sotasurmat) is examined as a case study in remembrance and reconciliation. The case of the Kosovon village of Racak was also discussed in relation to the International War Crime Trial of Milosovic. Finally, the course moved to contextualize notions of justice, memory and reconciliation in inter/national structures through an exploration of the role of memory and justice in truth commissions.

The Body, the Nation, and the State


Taught several times between 2002-2005 at the University of Tampere, Finland

The nation-state is composed of bodies that identify themselves as part of a greater entity or idea. The most basic element of governing is being able to make bodies do as rulers wish. The control of bodies can take place on many levels from the family to work to social and cultural institutions. Yet, these bodies are often emotionally attached to the nation-state and its institutions, and are even willing to die to defend their national identity. This course examined the core questions surrounding the interaction between the nation, the state and the body from an interdisciplinary perspective.


The course started with an exploration of the body as embodiment, that is, how we subjectively understand our bodies. The first part of the course placed emphasis on the state administrative and political control of bodies. The second part of the course focuses on the control of bodies through demographic phenomena (such as, famines and epidemics) and institutions (such as, the police and health authorities). The course ended with a reflection on suffering bodies. 


The course sought to integrate the perspectives of philosophy, sociology, political science, social work and social policy on understanding the control of bodies by institutions in the nation-state and beyond.

Developing Global Citizenship through International Interdisciplinary Studies:

The Use of Social Memory in Global Diversity Issues


Taught as a professional development course at California State University, Fresno in 2006

Universities are increasingly recognizing the value of enhancing global citizenship through internationally-focused education. Increasing global awareness is essential to preparing students to operate in a complex and interdependent international environment. The growing diversity of the local community calls for multicultural professional awareness which incorporates perspectives from outside of the US in addition to local standpoints. While some students are able to go abroad for exchange programs, many are not. Conversely, a great international capacity exists within the local university community. Hence the challenge for universities is how to globalize local education to give all students the opportunity to be included in global awareness education as well as to harness the capacity already available at the local level.


This course focused on how interdisciplinary courses with an international focus were developed in Finland. It presents how Finnish universities approached the issue of international education and developed practical means of interdisciplinary collaboration within a context of limited means. Course members participated in three interdisciplinary case study sessions that will give a hands-on experience of how these courses were organized. Through an exploration of the practical themes developed in the Finnish context, the course encouraged faculty to think of how such collaboration could be developed at Fresno State.

Kris Clarke, Ph.D

Academic and social commentator
Helsinki, Finland

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