Call for Papers:
Contested Memories: Multidirectional Approaches to the Holocaust in 21st-Century Culture
The translation of Michael Rothberg’s seminal book Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009) into German in 2021 sparked an ongoing and often heated controversy about the position of the Holocaust in German memorial culture that has been described as a “Historikerstreit 2.0.” Rothberg’s argument that the Holocaust and its memorialisation may be compared to other types of memories of displacement and suffering in a productive and non-competitive way has been seen by many as conflicting with the understanding of the Holocaust as unique and non-comparable that has occupied a dominant position in German memorial culture since the original Historikerstreit of 1986.
Critics, including those writing for popular German news outlets such as Die Zeit, Die Welt, and Frankfurter Allgemeine have accused Rothberg of relativising not only Holocaust memory but also contemporary anti-Semitism through his multidirectional approach. In their joint response published in Die Zeit in April 2021, Rothberg and Jürgen Zimmerer (an expert in African history) have argued that one of the dangers of refusing comparisons between the Holocaust and other types of suffering is that it leads to a dehistoricisation of the Holocaust. They argue that the Holocaust should also not be considered as uniquely German, as this occludes the ways in which other countries collaborated with Nazi Germany. Moreover, they foreground the productive ways in which comparisons between the Holocaust and other experiences of suffering not only allow us to discuss similarities between the Holocaust and other genocides, but by the act of comparison also lead us to identify what was unique about the Holocaust.
Dan Stone, an expert in comparative genocide studies, has similarly defended Rothberg’s multidirectional approach by emphasising that if German memorial culture does not open itself up to thinking through the connections between the Holocaust and colonialism, it will be unable to critically engage with the ways in which the legacies of the Holocaust shape contemporary Germany, a point that Dirk Moses, a scholar of the Holocaust and other genocides, also made in his polemical essay ‘Der Katechismus der Deutschen/The German Catechism’ (May 2021). The uproar surrounding the translation of Rothberg’s book has not only reopened some of the debates about the uniqueness of the Holocaust that were most famously discussed during the Historikerstreit of 1986, but has also exposed wider concerns about comparative approaches to the Holocaust.
We are inviting contributions that investigate the issue of comparative Holocaust studies in Germany and beyond from a range of perspectives, including those that focus on literary and filmic representations and other cultural artifacts (especially those generated from or about postcolonial contexts).
Essays might focus on but are not limited to discussing the following questions:
- To what extent can we compare the Holocaust and colonialism in Germany and beyond?
- What are some of the similarities but also differences that emerge when Holocaust memory is situated in a comparative context in cultural artifacts? Do these comparisons represent a danger or an opportunity (or both)?
- What are the advantages (and possibly disadvantages) of a diversified, multidirectional approach to depicting the Holocaust and its memory?
- What is the place of Holocaust memory in a globalised, postcolonial 21st century?
- To what extent do literary and other cultural works offer alternative or imaginative contributions to this discussion? How has the discussion been formed and/or reflected in media of cultural memory ?
- Is the Holocaust represented in the media of cultural memory as a contested memory and if so, what implications does this have for the future of Holocaust memory?
- How have some of the limitations of using Holocaust memory in contexts that have not had a direct experience of the Holocaust been demonstrated in media such as literature and film? Do these indicate a limit to the utility of multidirectional memory?
We are inviting articles for a special issue to be proposed to the journal Memory Studies. Please send your abstract (500 words) and a short academic bio (150 words) by 15 May 2023 to the editors, Sarah Phillips Casteel, Kylie Giblett, and Isabelle Hesse at ContestedMemoriesSpecialissue@gmail.com.