H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala banner featuring heroes and martyrs of the Revolution and Civil War, October 2015 (Credit: H.I.J.O.S. Guatemal)

H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala banner featuring heroes and martyrs of the Revolution and Civil War, October 2015 (Credit: H.I.J.O.S. Guatemal)

Remembering Revolution: How Memory and Social Media are Shaping 21st century Politics of the Present

A workshop and edited volume with Dr. Julie Gibbings (University of Manitoba).

As protestors gathered in the streets of Guatemala City in 2015, digital-savvy activists utilized tweets, films, and videos to portray alternatives to state-sanctioned versions of history. Protestors tweeted digitally enhanced photographs that blended protests in the national plaza during the nation’s 1944 Revolution with images of protests in 2015. These practices raise the question of how “networked social movements” are drawing on historical memory, particularly of past revolutions or times of social change, to give meaning to their actions and legitimize demands for social, political and economic transformation. Labeled the age of “digital democracy”, digital media technologies are now serving not only as tools for social organization, but also as platforms by which different versions of history do battle daily.    

Our first objective is to analyze how protestors used historical narratives and memorialization, often through digital media platforms, to promote their diverse agendas and give meaning to their actions. This examination quickly revealed the prescience and importance of a deeper investigation of the meanings and effects of the 1944-1954 revolution in history and historiography.

Our second objective is to create a space for these historical and historiographical discussions to take shape. On May 18-19, 2017, we invited some of the most outstanding historians and anthropologists working on the revolution to the University of Manitoba for an intimate workshop. Participants discussed pre-circulated papers with the objective of creating a well-curated edited volume entitled, Revisiting Revolution: History, Memory, Politics.

This important volume, our third objective, challenges prevailing assumptions about the impact and meaning of the revolution across a diverse range of historical actors (including campesino women, state agronomists, Afro-descendent politicians, anti-communist students, and German-Kekchi landowners) and regions (including Alta Verapaz, the Petén, Sacatepéquez, and coastal Izabal). Contributors include Jim Handy, David Carey Jr., Diane M. Nelson, Arturo Taracena, Deborah Levenson, Jorge Ramón González Ponciano, J.T. Way, Abigail E. Adams, Betsy Konefal, Sarah Foss, Ingrid Sierakowski, Patrick Chassé, and Anthony Andersson.