Public passages : political action in and around the Holocaust memorial, Berlin / by Irit Dekel
Includes bibliographical references (p. 216-229)
This dissertation analyzes the formation of public spheres of action in a national site of memory: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. I study action and discourse around the Memorial as constructing and reformulating the way especially Germans, but also different European nationals, Israelis and other groups relate to the ways their past has been remembered. The Memorial is touristy urban place, whose sense-making activities are constitutive of its materiality. I focus on interpretation processes rather than on finalized memory products, to delineate the effects such processes have on public memory and action around it. Interpreting the Memorial, I suggest, creates a sphere for the exploration of self in public, in which visitors discuss their and others' activities in the Memorial as part of a transformative experience. This transformation is reflected on in therapeutic terms and culminates in a productive miscommunication in which both the self and the public realize that it is impossible to understand the Memorial and thus necessary to constantly discuss it, and through that the past and engagement with it in the present.This reflexive, historical and phenomenological observation attends to the establishment of ethical subjectivity as a basis for civic engagement by all parties in the site. It also offers an analysis of memory representation in contemporary memorial sites by means of photography, movement and exhibition of archives. I conclude in a comparative discussion of the individuation of memory and the presentation of names and numbers in the Memorial and in Yad Vashem, to discern a parallel interest in numbers and names of victims which turns into an interest in objects of memory.
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