Staff, faculty and students affiliated with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota grieve the passing of Fern Badzin.

Fern and her late husband Bernard established the Badzin Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which has supported for the last decade graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts committed to research in the field.  Bernard and Fern also created the Badzin Lecture Series fund, helping to bring renowned experts to campus. More recently Fern generously supported the Genocide Education Outreach (GEO) Program, which sends young scholars into the community to teach about the Holocaust, other genocides, and related issues directly affecting students and communities at large.

Fern had a unique personality and generous soul that has impacted many of us in various ways. She was a warm, upbeat and delightful person and we were fortunate to have Fern as a supporter and participant at events on campus. She leaves us with many fond memories.

CHGS will honor Fern’s legacy by continuing to support the professional development of graduate students, hosting community events and public lectures, growing the GEO program, and reaching ever wider audiences in our firm commitment to educate about the Holocaust and the recurrent problem of genocide.

The 13th Twin Cities Arab Film Festival is upon us. The film festival is organized by Mizna and will run from September 27th to September 30th. This year, the festival commemorates 70 years since the nakba (Catastrophe), when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948. The festival features over 30 films from Syria, Iraqi Kurdistan, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the USA. Many of the screenings will be the premiere in either Minnesota or the US, with a special advanced screening of Capharnaum! Capharnaum is directed by award-winning Nadine Labaki, and tells the story of a Lebanese boy who launches a lawsuit against his parents for the crime of giving him life. Despite a profound list of films with award winning actors and directors, federal authorities have denied entrance visas to several actors and directors who were scheduled to visit the film festival.

Below, we have compiled a list of films and events that may interest our readers. See the full schedule of the festival and buy the tickets here.

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Growing up in Myanmar, the back of every newspaper had a section with big, bold letters that read, “BBC is lying, VOA is lying, RFA is lying; Sky full of lies”. The appearance of those words in newspapers, television, and books was stopped in 2010, when the government launched a series of political reforms. But, here I am in 2017, and I hear the same narrative that “the international media is lying” again. Surprisingly, this time, the narrative is being advanced not only by the military and the government, but also by the vast majority of Myanmar people, including even those who spent their whole lives in prison because they had called for democracy and human rights.

The Rohingya exodus, one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world, has inspired people to echo the narratives set by the military regime over the past few decades is. Following the attack by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police outposts in August 25 2017, the military conducted a “clearance operation” in the area where the attack happened. As a result, over 700,000 Rohingya population had to flee to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. Rohingya are a marginalized Muslim minority who have lived  in the West of the country for generations. According to the existing citizenship law passed in 1982, the government wiped out the citizenship of the majority Rohingya population, and the government and the public do not recognize them as an ethnic group of Myanmar since then.

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When governments and citizens instead of being armed with weapons, are equipped with historical perspective they reshape our national and local discussions on the rationale for certain monuments and memorials. And if the end result of this public dialogue culminates in a towering figure being toppled, the sound is resounding. This past week, a Confederate statue fell on a college campus in America, but the Civil War I am writing about here is the one that still haunts Spain.

On August 24th the Spanish government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez approved a decree to exhume the preserved corpse of General Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, a gigantic mausoleum near Madrid that the dictator had designed to eternally enshrine his victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The site is also the final resting place of Falangist Party founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and contains the remains of some 35,000 civilians and soldiers, many of them Republicans executed by Franco’s regime, and transferred to the site on his orders.

Why has it taken so long to decide to remove the body of a dictator from a sanctuary that celebrates and in essence beautifies his rule? And why now?

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Chad Alan Goldberg is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. His interests lie in the sociology of citizenship, including the development of rights and duties over time, changing levels and forms of democratic participation and shifting patterns of civil inclusion and exclusion. He is the author of Citizens and Paupers: Relief, Rights, and Race, from the Freedmen’s Bureau to Workfare. His most recent book, Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought examines how Jews became a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in French, German, and American social thought from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

Alejandro Baer: Your book highlights how for classical theorists, such as Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx or Robert Park, Jews became reference points for the interpretation of the new modern social order. Why do Jews occupy this singular space in the theorizing of modernity?

Chad Goldberg: To answer to this question, some people have pointed to the Jewish backgrounds of authors like Durkheim, Marx, Simmel, and Wirth. Others have suggested that the answer lies in the distinctive social positions that Jews occupied. There may be some truth to both views. Durkheim’s thinking, for example, was surely directed against the antisemitism of his milieu, and it’s true that German Jews were disproportionately engaged in commerce and more urbanized than the general population. But my book suggests another way to answer this question; I draw on the work of Lévi-Strauss to develop a relational (or, as others might say, structuralist) explanation.

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In May, the Armenian Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and members of the Jewish community, gathered in the St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Pail to commemorate victims of genocide and mass violence from their communities. This gathering appears to be the first time that these three communities have come together to remember their pasts. The event came to fruition over friendship and food, as well as a recognition that supporting one another, especially over similarly tragic pasts, is important for the survival of minority communities.

Speakers from each community emphasized a commonality between all three religions, whether a shared history of victimization or a shared theology. Each community has a tragic history, histories that Fr. Tadeos, the priest of the Armenian Church, wished would remain in the past. However, he emphasized that the Coptic Church continues to experience these tragedies today.

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Flowers in a Khmer Rouge jail cell by alex.ch.

In the twentieth century, 40 to 60 million defenseless people were massacred in episodes of genocide. The 21st century is not faring much better, with mass murder ongoing e.g. in Myanmar and Syria. Many of these cases have been studied well, both in detailed case studies and in comparative perspectives, but studying mass murder is no picnic. Scholars have also examined how conducting research, including ethnographic fieldwork, archival investigation, and oral history interviews, can affect the researcher in profound ways. Among a broader set of difficulties that obstruct research on this wretched subject, two stand out in particular: political constraints and psychological attrition.

Political constraints

All social research operates in a dense political field. Of all the political actors constraining research on mass murder, states stand out. They often have a vested interest in misrepresenting the truth, because for many, the memory of a genocide (or its denial), is part and parcel of their collective identity. States that consider themselves heirs to perpetrator regimes, such as Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, China, or Serbia, make great effort to influence the scholarship on episodes of mass violence. They deny access to archival collections and libraries, intimidate and prohibit them from conducting field work. (The opposite is also possible: governments may try to foster or manipulate research by funding politically useful research, by pushing for the establishment of academic chairs at home or abroad, or by offering scholarships.)

Having to contend with the taboos, restrictions, prescriptions, and outright threats of authoritarian regimes keeps scholars working on these topics under permanent threat. Researchers bold enough to travel into these societies to visit sites, uncover evidence, interview witnesses, and have got to fear the security services and intelligence agencies of these states. One consequence of this discouraging atmosphere is that, in general, less research is carried out on those instances and episodes of mass murder, an undesirable blind spot due to the importance of the events. (Some researchers ingratiate themselves with the authorities for privileged access.) A second consequence poses a methodological dilemma: due to such constraints, does one launch a sting operation, like undercover journalism? Or does one use informants, fixers, and mediators on the ground? Does one pay the possible interviewees for taking the risks?

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Claude Lanzmann, the French intellectual and filmmaker, has died at age 92. This is an age that suggests Lanzmann was not in a hurry. Instead, he took all his time to make an exit. It is hard to measure his legacy. His film Shoah is one of a kind. It was released in his maturity, in 1985, when Lanzmann was 60. It fell upon the film world like a meteorite. A UFO of cinema. In a world of young prodigies (artists, philosophers, writers and filmmakers), Lanzmann was more tortoise than hare–notwithstanding the title he chose for his Memoirs, The Patagonian Hare (2009).

He was slow, his film is slow–it has the rhythm of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Long, and slow, it demands patience and persistence from the viewer. Shoah is not a documentary–its author called it an artwork. Lanzmann’s purpose was never representation, but rather presence and incarnation. It was not about explaining or understanding, but about reliving by creating a dialectical image in which the Then of the event would collide with the Now of the film.

For those who have seen Shoah and read The Patagonian Hare, the contrast could not be more striking. Shoah, a threnody to the victims of the Holocaust, would suggest that its creator was melancholic, dwelling in the past and possessed by the dead. By contrast, Lanzmann’s Memoirs stage an insatiable hedonist, an Epicurean, a man enamored of life and perilous adventures, a man hungry for new experiences. Hence his films on Israel, and his unflinching admiration for the rebirth of the Jewish people after the destruction of European Jewry. Friend and disciple of Jean-Paul Sartre, Lanzmann toured the young Jewish state for the first time in the 1960s. There he realized that Jews were not merely the invention of the gaze of the anti-Semite.

Shoah seems to be the work of Antigone, but The Hare can be read as the autobiography of Don Juan. Between ethics and esthetics, between mourning the past and embracing the present, Lanzmann’s life was all far from exemplary – it was rather an authentic life, in the Sartrean sense of the word, i.e., a life of his choice and of his own making.

Bruno Chaouat is a professor in the Department of French and Italian, and is also affiliated with the Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He is interested in 19th and 20th century French literature and thought, and has recently published, Is Theory Good for the Jews? French Thought and the Challenge of the New Antisemitism.

Michael Rothberg is the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His latest book is Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009). He is also the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003), and special issues of the journals Criticism, Interventions, Occasion, and Yale French Studies. As part of the Seeking Refuge in a Changing World Series, Rothberg was invited by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies to give a talk titled, “Inheritance Trouble: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance.” You can watch it here.

 

How did you decide to bring postcolonial studies and Holocaust studies together, and what compelled you to address interlocutions between these two realms of study?

Since graduate school I’ve had an interest in both Holocaust studies and postcolonial studies, but I thought about them for a long time as separate projects and interests. Parallel to that, I had an interest in the relationship between Jewish American culture and African American culture. It was reading Paul Gilroy’s book The Black Atlantic when it came out in the 1990s that made me realize I could bring these different fields together, and I started to do that in the conclusion to my first book, Traumatic Realism. After completing that book I discovered an essay by W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Negro and the Warsaw Ghetto,” which eventually became the origins of my idea of multidirectional memory, although I didn’t have the term at that time. I wrote an essay on DuBois and his visit to post-war Warsaw where he witnessed the rubble of the ghetto and saw the newly-erected Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument. I thought this was a powerful response that had interesting things to say about race — especially in a comparative perspective. At the time, I thought I was working on a project on Blacks and Jews, a topic that is often grounded in an American national framework. I was interested in broadening that out into an international/transnational realm.

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Hendrik Witbooi (Chief of the Witbooi Namaqua)

Depictions of colonized African peoples from Southwest Africa (DSWA, present-day Namibia), Germany’s first overseas colony, were prevalent throughout the German metropole at the turn of the twentieth century. Tobacconists catered to the erotic fantasies of colonial enthusiasts with images of Herero girls in their advertisements. Coffee companies used portraits of black African women to affirm the quality of their beans. Youth magazines allowed children to escape into “exotic” domains where their imaginations could wander unhindered by “civilized” social expectations. Anthropologists shifted the paradigms of scientific analysis by studying “natural peoples” as faceless objects. Novelists published romanticized accounts of faraway conflicts, a practice that over time made the realities of colonial bloodshed palpable for a continental audience. Though characterizations like these typified the contemporary discourse on Africa and epitomized Europe’s dominance over the continent, they belie the significant degree to which Africans in turn influenced the evolution of German imperial policy in southern Africa.

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