Ambivalent Affect: Perpetration in Contemporary Representations of the Holocaust 2017

Country: Netherlands

City: Utrecht

Abstr. due: 30.09.2016

Dates: 06.07.17 — 09.07.17

Area Of Sciences: History and archeology;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: American Comparative Literature Association in Utrecht


In recent discourse on the ethical stakes of aesthetic representations of the Holocaust, the function of perpetrator figures has taken on a prominent role.  Moreover, recent literary texts, films and artworks about the Holocaust have focused prominently on perpetrator figures. By eliciting often highly ambivalent empathic responses from readers and viewers for their perpetrator characters, such works challenge the rigidity with which widely-shared perceptions of absolute evil have allowed the aesthetic commemoration of the Holocaust to place the events at a distance.  These works also demonstrate that the question of perpetration is fundamentally inherent to Holocaust representation, provoking for cultural scholars a number of critical ethical and aesthetic concerns.  However, cultural criticism has only recently begun to develop an adequate methodological and taxonomical framework for analyzing the uncomfortable centrality of perpetration to how we conceptualize and commemorate the Holocaust. This seminar aims to address these issues by both facilitating the exchange of ideas between researchers already addressing such issues and encouraging newcomers to this line of inquiry.  We invite presentations that address a range of issues related to the question of how perpetration affects the way in which atrocities can be commemorated. Possible topics could include presentations on literature, film, and visual culture with a focus on:

     the visualization of violence in Holocaust fiction;
    the focalization of perpetrators in both film and literature, including the depiction of perpetrators’ perspectives, thoughts and feelings;
    the perception of perpetrators on the part of victims and survivors;
    the formal engagement with questions of evil;
    the ethical debates surrounding contemporary commemoration of the Holocaust, such as social media use at Holocaust sites or commemorative narratives or practices that unwittingly encourage identification with perpetrators
    the photographic re-discovery of everyday-Nazi memorabilia and the question of the “Nazi gaze”;
    the preservation of Holocaust sites.
From the ACLA website: “Individuals interested in participating in a particular seminar are encouraged to be in touch with the organizers over the summer; paper submissions through the portal will open Sept. 1 and close Sept. 23. Seminar organizers will review all submitted papers and propose their rosters by Sept. 30, and during October the Program Committee will review all submitted seminars for consideration for inclusion in the program.”

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