Guantánamo Public Memory Project

“Remembering Guantánamo” with Justice Albie Sachs & Aryeh Neier

April 28-29, 2011 Jerome Greene Annex Columbia University

“Remembering Guantánamo” brought together historians, advocates, museum professionals, and others to explore Guantánamo Bay as a “state of exception” in American politics and political culture; and imagine strategies for building public awareness of Guantánamo’s century-long history – its exceptional and commonplace uses and re-uses – to inspire citizen engagement in what happens there next.

To “remember” Guantánamo is not to place it in the past. The Obama Administration’s recent decisions to uphold military tribunals confirm that the detention facilities will remain open, its prisoners held there indefinitely. Gitmo is not behind us. But it does have a past, one that can provide critical perspective on what should happen now. How did we get here? How can looking at Guantánamo’s long history of use and reuse help us understand and shape its future? How can we keep the story of Guantánamo and the questions it raises in the public eye?

The symposium is a part of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, an effort by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience to foster public engagement in the history of Guantánamo and its implications for the future. The 2011 symposium included framing remarks from:

Justice Albie Sachs, an anti-apartheid activist and South African Constitutional Court Justice, and a driving force behind building South Africa’s new Constitutional Court on the site of Johannesburg’s notorious Old Fort prison; and

Aryeh Neier, a founder of Human Rights Watch, former Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and now President of the Open Society Foundations.


• the latest scholarship on Guantánamo’s history as a “state of exception”

• creative media – from visual art to film to web design – sharing stories of the thousands of people who have lived, worked, and been detained at Gitmo

• workshops to develop strategies and partnerships for engaging a broader public in Gitmo’s recent past and longer history.

Through debates on broader issues and critiques of specific elements, this event shaped the next phase of the Project, including a web platform, an edited volume, exhibits, and curricula.

“Remembering Guantánamo” was sponsored by the Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights, University Seminar on History, Redress, and Reconciliation, Oral History Research Office, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

Creative: Picture Projects & Tronvig Group