Seminar 2 January: To Image
The first session entailed close readings of one history and constitution of the witness in the different accounts of A. Wieviorka and G. Agamben, and this primarily surrounding the Shoah. Additionally, we briefly introduced the question of image and representation. Viewing Eyal Sivan’s “The Specialist: Portrait of a Modern Criminal” aided us in our considerations of the public facing and survivor-witness generating era of the witness through the court room and figure of Eichmann (trial), as we broached the “banality of evil” (Arendt) and what representation – in this case via montage – might mean. In this session, we follow this discussion a little differently before returning to documentary and representation. We ask: Is the image-object merely a mediator between survivor and interviewer, as it cannot itself bear witness (Laub & Felman)? Do we assign too little or too much importance to images, thus become inattentive to them (Didi-Huberman)? Can images themselves bear witness?
Didi-Huberman, Georges. Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz. Translated by Shane B. Lillis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 3-47.
Guerin, Frances and Roger Hallas, eds. The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. London: Wallflower Press, 2007. “Introduction” and “The Grey Space Between: Gerhardt Richter’s 18. Oktober 1977.” 1-20 and 113-128.
Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. New York: Routledge, 1992. Xiii-xx, 75-92.
Walid Sadek, “When Next We Meet: On the Figure of the Non-Posthumous Survivor,” ARTMargins 4, no. 2 (June 2015): 48–63.
Seminar 1 November: Waves of witness
We will explore Annette Wieviorka’s proposition that there are historical eras that produce the witness and certain forms of witness and witnessing. We then follow her claims into Agamben’s study of the etymology and figure of the witness (after Auschwitz), and slowly begin to explore how impactful these and other configurations were on post-holocaust European thought with regards to how post-catastrophe and post-violence (post-trauma) memory and testimony are configured. Including injunctions against representation (and also for) and simultaneously the connectedness between survival and speech, survival and writing, and death and writing. These will allow us to subsequently both broaden this discussion beyond these historical and geographic parameters and to challenge some aspects of what underpins them.
Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. New York: Zone Books, 2002: 15-86.
Caruth, Cathy, ed. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. 3-13, 151-158.
Wieviorka, Annette. The Era of the Witness. Translated from the French by Jared Stark. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006: 96-144.
watch: Eyal Sivan (1999) The Specialist: Portrait of a Modern Criminal.