Awkward Objects, Curiosa and Varia: Exploring the Boundaries of the Holocaust Archive

CARMAH Institute

The present workshop aims to reconsider the boundaries of the accepted Holocaust archive by exploring sources that occupy its fuzzy frontiers. While the development of Holocaust Studies has been characterized by the progressive inclusion of a widening array of testimonial forms (Langer 1991) and categories of witnesses (Lanzman 1985; Rittner, Roth 1993; Drane 1989, Kouba 2008), the landscape of potential source materials has yet to be fully exhausted. Unacknowledged “Holocaust curiosa” provide a vantage point to further re-evaluate what we accept as a legitimate historical document or Holocaust representation, and they can also serve as vehicles to critically reassess the ethics of how we approach writing the history of the Holocaust, by fostering truly complex, plural perspectives.

Recent calls to reassess undisclosed power relations and partialities in Western epistemology and parallel efforts to reclaim marginalized knowledges inspires our approach. By retrieving omitted voices, genres, and objects, which have remained invisible “either because they are not produced according to accepted or even intelligible methodologies or because they are produced by absent subjects, subjects deemed incapable of producing valid knowledge” (Santos 2018, 2), we aim to expand and further democratize the Holocaust archive.

We invite scholars who engage with silenced or overlooked categories of Holocaust witnesses and disregarded/awkward/strange/marginal documents or testimonial forms to join with us to reflect on the new epistemological approaches and novel methodologies these sources require to reveal their testimonial value and permit their integration into mainstream debate. We extend this invitation to a wide range of disciplinary experts, including historians, anthropologists, geographers, memory scholars, art historians, literature and media scholars, and museum experts, to help us map the broadest possible spectrum of documentary materials, and investigate the uncharted periphery of the Holocaust archive.