Museums and the Act of Witnessing examines how representations of traumatic histories and the legacies of the twentieth century in museums and heritage sites across the world shape political, social and cultural identities. Drawing on an interdisciplinary analysis of a variety of museum exhibitions around the globe, the book demonstrates how the narrative of ‘witnessing’ has shaped representation of war, genocide, repression and violence. Revealing that this form of presentation is inherently Western in its origins and nature, Wilson goes on to argue that witnessing the past is to colonise the future, as we project a certain view of the events of the past onto the present. Detailing the character, content and meanings of representation that focus on the traumatic events of the twentieth century, the book demonstrates the way in which visitors are cast as ‘witnesses’ and questions what the true purpose of witnessing really is. Museums and the Act of Witnessing draws attention to the fact that we have inherited a distinct, and often limited, mode of seeing the past and considers how we can more effectively engage with the past in the present. The book will be of interest to academics and students engaged in the study of museums, history, sociology, conflict, politics and memory.
Rhetorical Invention, Historical Remembrance, and Public Culture
Author: Bradford Vivian
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
Commonplace Witnessing examines how citizens, politicians, and civic institutions have adopted idioms of witnessing in recent decades to serve a variety of social, political, and moral ends. The book encourages us to continue expanding and diversifying our normative assumptions about which historical subjects bear witness and how they do so. Commonplace Witnessing presupposes that witnessing in modern public culture is a broad and inclusive rhetorical act; that many different types of historical subjects now think and speak of themselves as witnesses; and that the rhetoric of witnessing can be mundane, formulaic, or popular instead of rare and refined. This study builds upon previous literary, philosophical, psychoanalytic, and theological studies of its subject matter in order to analyze witnessing, instead, as a commonplace form of communication and as a prevalent mode of influence regarding the putative realities and lessons of historical injustice or tragedy. It thus weighs both the uses and disadvantages of witnessing as an ordinary feature of modern public life.
Challenging the fundamental tenet of the multicultural movement-that social struggles turning upon race, gender, and sexuality are struggles for recognition-this work offers a powerful critique of current conceptions of identity and subjectivity based on Hegelian notions of recognition. The author’s critical engagement with major texts of contemporary philosophy prepares the way for a highly original conception of ethics based on witnessing.Central to this project is Oliver’s contention that the demand for recognition is a symptom of the pathology of oppression that perpetuates subject-object and same-different hierarchies. While theorists across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences focus their research on multiculturalism around the struggle for recognition, Oliver argues that the actual texts and survivors’ accounts from the aftermath of the Holocaust and slavery are testimonials to a pathos that is “beyond recognition.” Oliver traces many of the problems with the recognition model of subjective identity to a particular notion of vision presupposed in theories of recognition and misrecognition. Contesting the idea of an objectifying gaze, she reformulates vision as a loving look that facilitates connection rather than necessitates alienation. As an alternative, Oliver develops a theory of witnessing subjectivity. She suggests that the notion of witnessing, with its double meaning as either eyewitness or bearing witness to the unseen, is more promising than recognition for describing the onset and sustenance of subjectivity. Subjectivity is born out of and sustained by the process of witnessing-the possibility of address and response-which puts ethical obligations at its heart.
From the Holocaust to 9/11, modern communications systems have incessantly exposed us to reports of distant and horrifying events, experienced by strangers, and brought to us through media technologies. In this book leading scholars explore key questions concerning the truth status and broader implications of 'media witnessing'.
History, Testimony, and Memory in Contemporary Culture
Author: Kelly Jean Butler
This book is about how Australians have responded to stories about suffering and injustice in Australia, presented in a range of public media, including literature, history, films, and television. Those who have responded are both ordinary and prominent Australians—politicians, writers, and scholars. All have sought to come to terms with Australia's history by responding empathetically to stories of its marginalized citizens.Drawing upon international scholarship on collective memory, public history, testimony, and witnessing, this book represents a cultural history of contemporary Australia. It examines the forms of witnessing that dominated Australian public culture at the turn of the millennium. Since the late 1980s, witnessing has developed in Australia in response to the increasingly audible voices of indigenous peoples, migrants, and more recently, asylum seekers. As these voices became public, they posed a challenge not only to scholars and politicians, but also, most importantly, to ordinary citizens.When former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his historic apology to Australia's indigenous peoples in February 2008, he performed an act of collective witnessing that affirmed the testimony and experiences of Aboriginal Australians. The phenomenon of witnessing became crucial, not only to the recognition and reparation of past injustices, but to efforts to create a more cosmopolitan Australia in the present. This is a vital addition to Transaction's critically acclaimed Memory and Narrative series.
Fascinating philosophical inquiry into post-Holocaust representations of the event in political theory, ethics, and aesthetics, and an assessment of the limitations and promise of philosophical 'witnessing' in relation to those issues
Curatorial Practice and the Pursuit of Social Justice
Author: Roger I. Simon
Publisher: SUNY Press
Explores the curating of “difficult knowledge” through the exhibition of lynching photographs in contemporary museums. This outstanding comparative study on the curating of “difficult knowledge” focuses on two museum exhibitions that presented the same lynching photographs. Through a detailed description of the exhibitions and drawing on interviews with museum staff and visitor comments, Roger I. Simon explores the affective challenges to thought that lie behind the different curatorial frameworks and how viewers’ comments on the exhibitions perform a particular conversation about race in America. He then extends the discussion to include contrasting exhibitions of photographs of atrocities committed by the German army on the Eastern Front during World War II, as well as to photographs taken at the Khmer Rouge S-21 torture and killing center. With an insightful blending of theoretical and qualitative analysis, Simon proposes new conceptualizations for a contemporary public pedagogy dedicated to bearing witness to the documents of racism.
Despite a stated commitment to cross-cultural solidarity, trauma theory - an area of cultural investigation that emerged out of the 'ethical turn' affecting the humanities in the 1990s - is marked by a Eurocentric, monocultural bias. This book takes issue with the tendency of the founding texts of the field to marginalize or ignore traumatic experiences of non-Western or minority groups, and to take for granted the universal validity of definitions of trauma and recovery that have developed out of the history of Western modernity. Moreover, it questions the assumption that a modernist aesthetic of fragmentation and aporia is uniquely suited to the task of bearing witness to trauma, and criticizes the neglect of the connections between metropolitan and non-Western or minority traumas. Combining theoretical argument with literary case studies, Postcolonial Witnessing contends that the suffering engendered by colonialism needs to be acknowledged more fully, on its own terms, in its own terms, and in relation to traumatic First World histories if trauma theory is to have any hope of redeeming its promise of cross-cultural ethical engagement.
Witnessing the Disaster examines how histories, films, stories and novels, memorials and museums, and survivor testimonies involve problems of witnessing: how do those who survived, and those who lived long after the Holocaust, make clear to us what happened? How can we distinguish between more and less authentic accounts? Are histories more adequate descriptors of the horror than narrative? Does the susceptibility of survivor accounts to faulty memory and the vestiges of trauma make them any more or less useful as instruments of witness? And how do we authenticate their accuracy without giving those who deny the Holocaust a small but dangerous foothold? These essayists aim to move past the notion that the Holocaust as an event defies representation. They look at specific cases of Holocaust representation and consider their effect, their structure, their authenticity, and the kind of knowledge they produce. Taken together they consider the tension between history and memory, the vexed problem of eyewitness testimony and its status as evidence, and the ethical imperatives of Holocaust representation.
This book interrogates representations – fiction, literary motifs and narratives – of the Partition of India. Delving into the writings of Khushwant Singh, Balachandra Rajan, Attia Hosain, Abdullah Hussein, Rahi Masoom Raza and Anita Desai, among many others, it highlights the modes of ‘fictive’ testimony that sought to articulate the inarticulate – the experiences of trauma and violence, of loss and longing, and of diaspora and displacement. The author discusses representational techniques and formal innovations in writing across three generations of twentieth-century writers in India and Pakistan, invoking theoretical debates on history, memory, witnessing and trauma. With a new afterword, the second edition of this volume draws attention to recent developments in Partition studies and sheds new light as regards ongoing debates about an event that still casts a shadow on contemporary South Asian society and culture. A key text, this is essential reading for scholars, researchers and students of literary criticism, South Asian studies, cultural studies and modern history.
Fantasies of Witnessing explores how and why those deeply interested in the Holocaust, yet with no direct, familial connection to it, endeavor to experience it vicariously through sites or texts designed to make it "real" for nonwitnesses. Gary Weissman argues that far from overwhelming nonwitnesses with its magnitude of horror, the Holocaust threatens to feel distant and unreal. A prevailing rhetoric of "secondary" memory and trauma, he contends, and efforts to portray the Holocaust as an immediate and personal experience, are responses to an encroaching sense of unreality: "In America, we are haunted not by the traumatic impact of the Holocaust, but by its absence. When we take an interest in the Holocaust, we are not overcoming a fearful aversion to its horror, but endeavoring to actually feel the horror of what otherwise eludes us." Weissman focuses on specific attempts to locate the Holocaust: in the person of Elie Wiesel, the most renowned survivor, and his classic memoir Night; in videotaped survivor stories and Lawrence L. Langer's celebrated book Holocaust Testimonies; and in the films Shoah and Schindler's List. These representations, he explains, constitute a movement away from the view popularized by Wiesel, that those who did not live through the Holocaust will never be able to grasp its horror, and toward re-creating the Holocaust as an "experience" nonwitnesses may put themselves through. "It is only by acknowledging the desire that gives shape to such representations, and by exploring their place in the ongoing contest over who really 'knows' the Holocaust and feels its horror, that we can arrive at a more candid assessment of our current and future relationships to the Holocaust," he says.
This book explores the pedagogical possibilities of testimony and witnessing. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, this book highlights the ultimate impossibility of witnessing and testimony: testimonies do not stand outside language, history, politics, or capitalist systems. Through analysis of different aspects of representation, subjectivity and emotions, this book illustrates how testimonies can be used as a way to control student emotions, perceptions and understandings. Testimonies used within teaching can work as a way to reproduce stereotypes of suffering, and can thus consolidate and reinforce exisiting power structures and identities. By exploring these difficulties, the author argues for the value of teaching historical testimonies of suffering that recognize both the impossibilities and possibilities of witnessing and testimony. “Marie Hållander has provided an indispensable guide to re-thinking the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimonies, essential reading for anyone interested in how to approach these topics both critically and pedagogically. Through a lucid theoretical synthesis, this book re-inscribes a dynamic pedagogical dimension into the topics of witnessing and testimony, which have been dominated by historians, psychologists and literary critics. Thinking through the theoretical challenges of witnessing and testimony yet using powerful examples from teaching, Hållander develops a forceful analysis that shows the profound implications of these topics for pedagogical practice.” —Michalinos Zembylas, Open University of Cyprus, Cyprus “Timely and topical, this fascinating book complicates approaches to witnessing, suffering and testimony without diminishing the pedagogical, historical and political significance of sharing, or harkening to, one’s experience. It is a powerful, original and valuable contribution in its field, not only because it weaves its themes in a diligent, reflective and critical manner, but also because it has its own, unique perspective and sensibilities, as these emerge from erudite combination of narrative, pedagogy and philosophy.” —Marianna Papastephanou, University of Cyprus, Cyprus
Based on the author‘s more than 35 years of experience as a successful expert witness, this revised and expanded edition of Expert Witnessing and Scientific Testimony: A Guidebook demonstrates how to properly present scientific, criminal, and forensic testimony and survive the onslaught of cross-examination in court. It presents material in a step-
Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing is a critical study of the relationship between bodies, memories and communal witnessing. With a focus on the aesthetics and politics of queer postcolonial narratives, this book examines how unspeakable traumas of colonial and familial violence are communicated through the body. Exploring multisensory epistemologies as queer and anti-colonial acts of resistance, McCormack offers an original engagement with collective and public forms of bearing witness that may emerge in response to institutionalized violence. Intergenerational, communal and fragmented narratives are central to this analysis of ethics, witnessing, and embodied memories. Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing is the first text to offer a sustained analysis of Judith Butler's and Homi Bhabha's intersecting theories of performativity, and to draw out the centrality of witnessing to the performative structure of power. It moves through queer, postcolonial, disability and trauma studies to explore how the repetition of familial violence – throughout multiple generations –may be lessened through an embodied witnessing that is simultaneously painful, disturbing and filled with pleasure. Its focus is selected literary texts by Shani Mootoo, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Ann-Marie MacDonald, and it situates this literary analysis in the colonial histories of Trinidad, Morocco and Canada.
Addressing the Alterity of the Other in Post-coup Chile and Argentina
Author: Kate Jenckes
Publisher: SUNY Press
Category: Literary Criticism
Provides an innovative and theoretically rigorous approach to the subject of testimony in Latin America. This book rethinks the nature of testimony beyond the ground of the human in works produced in Chile and Argentina from the 1970s to the present. Focusing on literature by Juan Gelman, Sergio Chejfec, and Roberto Bolaño, as well as art by Eugenio Dittborn, Kate Jenckes argues that these works represent life, death, and the relation between self and other “beyond the human,” that is beyond the sense that we can know and represent ourselves and others, with powerful implications for our understanding of history, community, and politics. Jenckes engages with the work of Jacques Derrida together with the intellectually rigorous field of Chilean aesthetic theory to explore issues related to the nature of testimony.
Witnessing Whiteness invites readers to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations. The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history has for personal lives and social institutions, the book considers political, economic, socio-cultural, and legal histories that shaped the meanings associated with whiteness. Drawing on dialogue with well-known figures within education, race, and multicultural work, the book offers intimate, personal stories of cross-race friendships that address both how a deep understanding of whiteness supports cross-race collaboration and the long-term nature of the work of excising racism from the deep psyche. Concluding chapters offer practical information on building knowledge, skills, capacities, and communities that support anti-racism practices, a hopeful look at our collective future, and a discussion of how to create a culture of witnesses who support allies for social and racial justice. For book discussion groups and workshop plans, please visit www.witnessingwhiteness.com.