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Public Lecture: Karsten Lichau on ''Secular Emotions without a Secular Body? What we can learn from the history of the minute’s silence''

23 June 2022

5 p.m.

Seminargebäude, Room S 403

A ceremony in commemoration of the soldiers killed in World War I, the minute’s silence was introduced in the aftermath of the war, and would soon become established as an important element in 20th century memory cultures. On the one hand, its silent gestures of mourning and reverence built on older cultural traditions, not least those of a religious nature. On the other hand, the minute’s silence transferred these gestures to a secular political sphere, in which they were stripped from their ritual contexts.

In the early years, this situation confronted possible participants with a challenge: they were not familiar with such public display of emotions deemed to belong to the private or religious sphere. The history of the minute’s silence therefore allows us to critically revisit Charles Hirschkind’s reflection on the non-existence of a ‘secular body’. Inquiring into the specific emotions through which actors engaged with the call for silent remembrance, we might find some traces of such a secular body – yet we should shift our perspective in order to grasp the peculiarities of its existence.