‘Photography and Memory in Holocaust Museums’

Crownshaw, Richard. 2007. ‘Photography and Memory in Holocaust Museums’. Mortality, 12(2), pp. 176-192. ISSN 1357-6275 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Recent trends in Holocaust studies have addressed how forms of memorialization might transmit a cultural memory of genocide to those who did not witness the event. In particular, the theorization of memory's transmission has attended to the traumatic reverberations of the event that might be felt by those who did not witness it and which might actually provoke remembrance of a kind in this generation. In turn, this tendency within (some) Holocaust studies has led to critiques of the universalization of trauma, and of the way that this dehistoricizes and displaces the specificities of the witnesses' experiences, memories, and identities. Nevertheless, the disruptiveness generated by this secondary witnessing and trauma is useful for its interruption of redemptive forms of memorialization. For example, the traumatizing potential of artefacts exhibited in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), particularly photographic ones, could in fact be harnessed for their affect and ability to disrupt the nationalist narrative of which they are a part. The argument that follows investigates a seminal moment in Holocaust studies, in which secondary witnessing and trauma was conceptualized by Marianne Hirsch under the name of postmemory. Hirsch's reading of the USHMM is scrutinized in order to illuminate its potential of displacing the memories and identities of the Holocaust's witnesses. By problematizing the originary concept of postmemory, this argument hopes to make more robust the idea of memory's transmission that still commands the attention of Holocaust studies.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

01 Sep 2015 09:20

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2017 15:39

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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