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Dr N.D. Adler (1963) has been appointed Professor of Memory, History and Transitional Justice at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Humanities, effective 15 June. The chair was established in partnership with the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Prof Nanci Adler
Photo: Dirk Gillissen

Nanci Adler will conduct research into the way that the memory of a period of dictatorship, repression, and other human rights violations takes shape, particularly in societies where open debate about the past is suppressed. Recent history shows that the fall of dictatorial and repressive regimes does not necessarily result in the assignment of blame and the punishment of perpetrators, nor does it lead to an acknowledgment of the victims’ sufferings or the restoration of their rights.   

The reasons for this vary. In most post-authoritarian societies, moreover, the stories people tell about their traumatic past are subject to an ‘official politics of memory’. This means that only those personal accounts which serve the interests of the new rulers are tolerated or supported. Most of the victims are expected to remain silent. This impedes a purifying, collective approach to dealing with the past and, by extension, the act of reconciliation.   

Adler’s research into this phenomenon is internationally and comparatively oriented. It is closely linked with the interdisciplinary and international research field of Transitional Justice. The chair will act as a powerful stimulant to research into the history, theory and practice of Transitional Justice. 

Adler has been affiliated with the NIOD since 2003 and was appointed as its Director of Research in 2014. She also heads the department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and is team leader and co-founder of the KNAW-funded NIOD research programme ‘Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Narratives in Historical Perspective’. As part of the UvA’ History programme, Adler lectures in various courses within the framework of its Master’s track in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Adler is the author of various books, including Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag (2012),  The Gulag Survivor: Beyond the Soviet System (2002), and  Victims of Soviet Terror: The Story of the Memorial Movement (1993).