The phenomenon of bearing witness : history, testimony, and the face of the other / by Jennifer Scuro.
This dissertation is an argument for a post-Holocaust ethics that genuinely responds to the injunction, “Never again!” Using Levinas' ethical metaphysics as a foundation, and providing an exegesis of the ontological meaning of time and historicity, I interrogate the structure of the world legacy that is capable of genocide and systematic dehumanization. The problem outlined throughout this project is the aesthetic interest in history that contributes to an evasion of ethical considerations. I also describe and defend the position of the witness as an alternative to the meaning of the individual as an agent in history, disposing and critiquing the metaphors of the hero, possession and authenticity. The Western view of history has reduced historical meaning to experiential psychology, avoiding the underlying problems of intergenerational responsibility, accountability and sincerity. With this ethical injunction, I also use Levinas' ethical metaphysics to connect the passing of time and the meaning of history with the importance of the face-to-face relationship as it informs testimony. The work of hearing and listening for the Other [ Autre], in resistance to the dominance of the self-same and the implicit institutionalized violence of this particular world-legacy, becomes an alternative hypothesis for how we may preserve meaning and historical memory. “A work distinguished from games and from calculation, is being-for-beyond-my-death…to aim at this world without me, to aim at a time beyond the horizon of my time…an eschatology without hope for oneself.”1 This dissertation is an effort at just this kind of eschatology, a tracework to redeem the meaning of historical significance as a one-for-the-other, to validate a form of generosity offered to the world without an interest in the return.
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