Museums & Memory WG | Memoryscapes (digital, locational, imagined) TFDC 2.14
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.12. Museums and Memory #1: Jewish Memoryscapes

This panel examines the development of archival and museal exhibitions which place Jewish history and identity on display. These case studies speak to the role of visitor engagement and the spectator's gaze in shaping understandings of contested histories. The differing levels of Jewish community participation in the creation of these spaces raises important questions about perspective, narrative, and content. While Alexandra Pucciarelli's paper on the issues associated with placing Jewish bodies on display diverges from Jazmine Contreras and Irit Dekel's discussion of representational displays of Judaism and Jewishness, all three papers consider the consequences of competing interpretive frames on the contemporary development of memoryscapes.

Irit Dekel, Indiana University Bloomington

The subaltern bites back: impression management and abduction in three German museum exhibitionsThis paper studies the gaze on and by Jews as (1) objects of memory (2) abducted subjects and (3) vengeful subalterns in three German museum exhibitions which focused on Jews between 2013-2022. In studying these exhibitions ethnographically with their media and visitors' reception I shed light on the transactional nature of expectations from minorities-majority relationships in German museums. The first exhibition is Shalom: Three photographers see Germany in Bonn's House of History Museum in 2016. Jews were cast as others, who are not unsafe and make possible to see Germany as a 'normal' society. The second exhibition is the Jewish Museums Berlin temporary exhibition The Whole Truth: Everything you ever wanted to know about Jews (2013). The exhibition theme responded to questions the museum's stuff encountered and wished to answer, addressing visitors as curious about things Jew ...

TFDC 2.14 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel examines the development of archival and museal exhibitions which place Jewish history and identity on display. These case studies speak to the role of visitor engagement and the spectator's gaze in shaping understandings of contested histories. The differing levels of Jewish community participation in the creation of these spaces raises important questions about perspective, narrative, and content. While Alexandra Pucciarelli's paper on the issues associated with placing Jewish bodies on display diverges from Jazmine Contreras and Irit Dekel's discussion of representational displays of Judaism and Jewishness, all three papers consider the consequences of competing interpretive frames on the contemporary development of memoryscapes.



Irit Dekel, Indiana University Bloomington

The subaltern bites back: impression management and abduction in three German museum exhibitions

This paper studies the gaze on and by Jews as (1) objects of memory (2) abducted subjects and (3) vengeful subalterns in three German museum exhibitions which focused on Jews between 2013-2022. In studying these exhibitions ethnographically with their media and visitors' reception I shed light on the transactional nature of expectations from minorities-majority relationships in German museums. The first exhibition is Shalom: Three photographers see Germany in Bonn's House of History Museum in 2016. Jews were cast as others, who are not unsafe and make possible to see Germany as a 'normal' society. The second exhibition is the Jewish Museums Berlin temporary exhibition The Whole Truth: Everything you ever wanted to know about Jews (2013). The exhibition theme responded to questions the museum's stuff encountered and wished to answer, addressing visitors as curious about things Jewish. It featured the "Jew in the box' exhibit where I'd suggest a reading of the act of rhetorical abduction performed with human exhibits. The third exhibition is 'Revenge: History and Fantasy' in the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt a.M in 2022. The exhibition practices a mode of turning back the gaze from the position of others back to visitors, though the possibility of knowledge co-production around a controversial topic of Jewish revenge and antisemitism. Employing a humor around clobbering, mass poisoning, by Jews as well as other subaltern figured such as women and racialize minorities settling accounts with their oppressors, this exhibition uses the theme of Jewish revenge to enlarge the discussion both on Jews and on other othered groups by encouraging public exchange through different modes of impression management between the museum director and curator (about Jews), between artists and visitors and among visitors.


Alexandra Pucciarelli, Rutgers University 

Dead and Disregarded in the Archive; the Natal Alienation of Victims of the Holocaust at the University of Strasbourg

For decades, students at the University of Strasbourg have swapped rumors about the school displaying the human remains of victims of the Holocaust. At first, the school vehemently denied these rumors, but in May of 2022 this gossip was confirmed to be true in a five hundred page report by the University. From 1941 to 1945 medical school professors at the University of Strasbourg forced at least two hundred and fifty people from concentration camps to be experimented on which included testing chemical weapons like mustard gas and giving them deadly diseases like typhus. Eighty six Jews, brought from Auschwitz, were murdered at a nearby camp for a planned skeleton collection as well. The recent report recommended that the school create public places of memorialization that clearly identify the victims. They also said the human remains should remain on display to ensure students are made aware of the Holocaust. To some outside of the Jewish Community these might seem to be reasonable recommendations, however, they break a major Jewish value. In Judaism it is forbidden to look at the dead. "The deceased is a mirch v'ayns roch, someone who is seen but who cannot see. To open the casket and allow people to look at the deceased is to turn the comforters into spectators and the deceased into an it" (Wolfson, N.D.). I am particularly interested in the affective experience of gazing upon these bodies and the experience of being metaphorically looked back at. This ignorance of community values is sadly common in museums and archives. There has been a push in the archives community for participatory archives, which is a call for community members to be part of archiving their own history. To properly archive and exhibit a community experience one must have knowledge of the intricacies of that group that only an ingroup member would have. This paper aims to contribute to scholarship on culturally informed archival praxis vis a vis human remains in museums.


Jazmine Contreras, Goucher College

'A Living Jewish Community': The Restoration of the Folkingestraat Synagogue and the Evolution of the Holocaust Memory in the Netherlands

In June 2021, the Folkingestraat Synagogue opened their permanent exhibition on the history of the Jewish community in Groningen and East Friesland. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the synagogue, which opened in 1906, was sold to Astra Dry Cleaners due to the reduction in the size of the Jewish community and inability to continue paying for upkeep. When Astra closed in 1973, the efforts of Lenny Wolgen Salomons and the local Jewish community saved the synagogue from demolition and instead led to the municipality's purchase of the building.Today, the Folkingestraat Synagogue operates as an educational and cultural center and an active place of worship. My paper examines the present day construction of the Folkingestraat Synagogue as a site of memory for the living Jewish community and as a space with which to introduce the broader community to the legacy of the Holocaust in their city. Jewish involvement, especially that of the second generation, in the reclamation of the Synagogue spurred a confrontation with the past on an individual level but also coincided with the broader societal shift in the acknowledgement of Jewish victimhood and trauma. It was through Jewish activism across a broad spectrum of spaces in the 1970s and 1980s that Dutch memory of the Nazi occupation began to move out of a resistance/collaborator binary and engaged with Jewish experiences. Newspaper articles and interviews with those involved in the synagogue's reconstruction emphasize the importance of this activism in shaping their understanding of familial experiences and their own complex relationship to this past and their Jewish identity. An analysis of both the synagogue as a communal gathering place and of the educational impact of the new exhibition raises questions about the construction of contemporary memorial practices on community consciousness and non Jewish understandings of the Holocaust.


Karen Remmler, Mount Holyoke College & Claire Wagner Auratic Remembrance, 

Material Culture, and Decolonizing Museum Collections: The Case of a Menorah. 

Drawing from Walter Benjamin's notion of auratic remembrance and Jane Bennett's theory of "vibrant matter," this paper focuses on the entangled provenance of museum objects that stand in for Jewish German lives, their destruction, and delayed memorialization against the backdrop of current practices of decolonizing museum collections. Usually associated with the return of indigenous artefacts and human remains to their rightful owners or descendents, how are we to understand the meaning and provenance of objects associated with Jewish cultures stolen or scavenged during Nazi Germany that have found their way to museums not associated with Jewish memoryscapes? To whom do they belong? How are their histories fathomed and how do they take on meaning as survivors of the Holocaust as well as of conveyors of Jewish afterlives? In order to explore how such objects become themselves actant memorialists of their prior owners, this paper focuses on case studies of Judaica and related objects located in a teaching museum at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, including a menorah, whose provenance and relation to Jewish life prior, during and after the Holocaust was investigated in a film project undertaken by student curator, Claire Louise Wagner in 2022.

Press and Public Relations Officer
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unoffiliated
Assistant Professor Germanic Studies and Jewish Studies
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Indiana University (Bloomington, USA)
PhD Student
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Rutgers University
Mary Lyon Professor of Humanities
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Mount Holyoke College
Professor of English
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Grinnell College
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