Human Rights & Memory WG | Creative Approaches to Memory TFDC 2.15
Jul 07, 2023 09:00 - 10:30(Europe/London)
20230707T0900 20230707T1030 Europe/London 8.4. Shaping the Past in the Present: The Art, Politics and Affects of Holocaust Memory Narratives

This panel presents three very different takes on the formation of collective memory – from inclusion of the marginalized into the main national narrative, artistic reenactment of an experiment that brings to the fore layers upon layers of memory, to human-object relationship and their ability to forge 'implicit collective memory' (Erll, 2022) and provoke political action. Yet, though approaching issues of memory from substantially different points of view, all three papers explore less visible linkages between the political, emotional and affective aspects of memory formation, demonstrating unexpected outcomes. All three papers challenge the 'instrumentalization approach' to memory construction, where the outcome is easily predictable. More importantly, they all show how the thread of the Holocaust remembrance, whether visible or invisible, shapes feelings and behaviors in surprising ways. Instead, this panel sheds light to the various possibilities in opening up the field of memory studies to the new and exciting venues of research.

Rebecca Kook

Critical thoughts on commemoration as a means of inclusion: Mizrahi and Russian speaking Jews and Holocaust memory in IsraelEfforts to incorporate the collective memories of minority communities into national memory narratives are viewed as an integral part of efforts to revive democracy, while contributing to social integration and equality. In this context, the inclusion of minority histories is increasingly being mandated by law and policy in many countries. Recently, Israel passed memory laws that set out to include the previously excluded history of its North African as well as its Russian-speaking minority communities into the larger Israeli national memory narrative of the Holocaust. In this essay w ...

TFDC 2.15 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel presents three very different takes on the formation of collective memory – from inclusion of the marginalized into the main national narrative, artistic reenactment of an experiment that brings to the fore layers upon layers of memory, to human-object relationship and their ability to forge 'implicit collective memory' (Erll, 2022) and provoke political action. Yet, though approaching issues of memory from substantially different points of view, all three papers explore less visible linkages between the political, emotional and affective aspects of memory formation, demonstrating unexpected outcomes. All three papers challenge the 'instrumentalization approach' to memory construction, where the outcome is easily predictable. More importantly, they all show how the thread of the Holocaust remembrance, whether visible or invisible, shapes feelings and behaviors in surprising ways. Instead, this panel sheds light to the various possibilities in opening up the field of memory studies to the new and exciting venues of research.



Rebecca Kook

Critical thoughts on commemoration as a means of inclusion: Mizrahi and Russian speaking Jews and Holocaust memory in Israel

Efforts to incorporate the collective memories of minority communities into national memory narratives are viewed as an integral part of efforts to revive democracy, while contributing to social integration and equality. In this context, the inclusion of minority histories is increasingly being mandated by law and policy in many countries. Recently, Israel passed memory laws that set out to include the previously excluded history of its North African as well as its Russian-speaking minority communities into the larger Israeli national memory narrative of the Holocaust. In this essay we ask whether, and in what ways, this change in the national memory narrative has quelled feelings of alienation experienced by members of these minorities and increased feelings of national belonging. Based on group interviews conducted with members of both North African communities as well as Russian-speaking communities in Israel, we demonstrate that feelings of exclusion from the national remembrance narrative linger, despite the efforts of the State. This raises questions regarding the future of the role of the state in constructing national memories and defining the boundaries of national membership.


Bernadette Buckley

The Re-enactment of Re-enactment: Rod Dickinson's Shock Machine and the Origins of Milgram's 'Obedience to Authority' Experiments

In 1961, Stanley Milgram's started work on his infamous 'Obedience to Authority' experiments – one of the most widely cited and provocative set of experiments in social science. The son of Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Romania, Milgram was profoundly impacted and shaped by his Jewish heritage and the atrocities of the Holocaust. He wanted to understand how, "with numbing regularity", otherwise "decent" people could "knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe." (Milgram, 1965)

Inspired by Nazi war crimes trials, Milgram set out to invent a social psychology experiment that would test the perpetrators' defence of 'just following orders'. Despite "enormous differences", the agentic state and hierarchical chain of command would share, Milgram maintained, "a common psychological process." (Milgram 1974) But now, Holocaust 'memory' would have a future-oriented perspective. By constructing "something akin to a Holocaust scenario played out in a laboratory setting" (Russell, 2018 :63), Milgram would show that "if a system of death camps were set up in the US of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for those camps in any medium-sized American town". (Milgram, CBS, 1979)

Fast forward nearly 40 years to the Centre for Contemporary Art, Scotland, where the artist, Rod Dickinson, is staging a re-enactment of Milgram's experiments. As if "blown through time and space and deposited inside a gallery" (Gaskin, 2003), Milgram's laboratory has been meticulously reconstructed in every detail. The original experiment – itself a piece of scripted theatre – is repeated, eight times over, for an audience that has been locked into the gallery. This paper invites us to consider the tension between Lethe and memory, when shifted onto an affective, operational register. How are shock, control and obedience structured into sets of procedures? How has Milgram been turned into art and the past set alight in a 'Heraclitean fire machine', where knowledge and meaning are as dynamic and as unstable as fire?


Lea David

Other shoes paved their way: The 'victims' shoes' trope and political action

Desire objects, i.e., personal items of the missing or killed found at the sites of mass atrocities, are often understood as the last tangible link to the absent person. While endless personal items are recovered from various places of atrocities, such as wallets, IDs, watches, jewellery, tabaco boxes, glasses, and much more, the most recognizable item, and intuitively directly connected to places of mass human rights abuses are the 'victims' shoes'. Though victims' shoes have a long history of representation of death, destruction and void, starting from the Holocaust onwards, their long term potential to incite political action was never a scope of a research. Based on the example of the 'victims' shoes' trope, I try to conceptualize what is happening in this human-object relationship and how this relationship is shaped when desire objects move through different social circuits. I demonstrate how the emotional energy charge changes with their transition from one circuit to another which consequently leads to the alteration of the perceived value of the victims' shoes. Using the biography and the ascribed agency of desire objects, I trace how human-object relations in general, and between people and victims' shoes in particular, shape political action. I show that the victims' shoes trope goes much beyond museums and its representation in popular culture and in fact is used in the vast variety of protests – against climate change, unemployment, domestic violence, road accidents, soldiers and civilians killed in various wars, institutional abuse and much more. Using the victim shoes trope in protests comes with a number of moral claims, all of which will be disused here. 

Professor
,
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Convenor of MA Art and Politics
,
Goldsmiths,. Unviversity fo London
Assistant Professor
,
University College Dublin
Professor
,
Goldsmiths University of London
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