The Photo Album: Autoethnographic Witnessing and the Post-Shoah Re-creation of Memory

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2023-04-27

Authors

Herzog, Julia

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Abstract

With a focus on a family photograph album this doctoral dissertation uses the idea that testimonial objects speak and initiate the creation of new memory. To frame her theoretical approach the author refers to the literatures of memory studies, Holocaust studies, material cultures, autoethnography and contemporary psychoanalytic theory. The author was particularly influenced by an early reading of Art Spiegelman’s (1973, 1986) classic graphic novels about his family’s experience in the Shoah, Maus I and Maus II, long before this dissertation was imagined. The author contends that literature and art is an effective way of communicating experience that defies direct reference. Recovering the stories of her forebears is this author’s mechanism of understanding silence, retrieving the existence of family members, some of whom were believed to have perished in the Shoah, honoring their memory and helping future generations connect to their ancestors. The author describes her research methodology for her doctoral dissertation as a blend of autoethnography, narrative inquiry and an organic emergent approach. Historically, as we emerge into a period of time where there are fewer eye-witnesses to the Shoah and new approaches to learning about its impact, the author’s research rests on the idea that there is an emerging third generation discussion. The key methodological question asked in this doctoral dissertation is how creative autoethnographical witnessing and exploration of family stories in a narrative can help develop insight concerning the transgenerational impacts of the Shoah. Will the process of autoethnographic creative writing combined with multi-media depictions of a story as an art-based expression of research develop a representation of that which had been disavowed? Can the representation then be added to the repertoire of effective discourse and action toward combatting antisemitism and other forms of hate? The author proposes that research as an act of transgenerational witnessing can lead to illumination benefiting those within and outside of her community regarding cataclysmic loss.

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