The propriety of Holocaust memory : cultural representations and commemorative responses / by Oren Baruch Stier
Includes bibliographical references (p. 369-396)
This dissertation analyzes the problem of collective/cultural memory in the context of a discussion of cultural strategies used in representing the Holocaust. It seeks to understand how the events of the past impact the present by paying attention to the modes and methods by which the meaning of the past is transmitted. Such meaning is often conceived in terms of a sense of "tradition," and thus I describe ways in which "tradition" is established, particularly in, but not limited to, the negotiations between myth and history set in motion by memorial activity in the Jewish context. Collective memory emerges as a highly volatile and mediated cultural construction, a bundle of representations centered around a core event (or events) being remembered, in this case the Shoah. I therefore analyze, via an interdisciplinary approach, several memorial-cultural responses to the Shoah: literary reflections, videotaped testimonies, museological narratives, and ritual-commemorative performances. Each one problematizes the issue of memory by stretching the bounds of propriety, understood in the dual sense of what is "proper" and what is "property." In this way, memory is both invoked and analyzed under the double theme of its symbolic ownership and the proper limits of its representation. Contemporary collective memory of the Holocaust therefore depends on the reconstruction of classic Jewish memory even as the terms of such memory are disrupted both by the contents and contexts for its representation and even as that memory is now the possession of memorial culture at large. It is therefore a potent symbolic construct that must be taken seriously not only by those who study the events of World War II or the specific components of Jewish religion and culture but also by all those who wish to make sense of the meaning of the past for present and future trajectories. Forever linked to the process of forgetting, collective/cultural memory, understood as a mass of presentations and representations that overflows its own bounds, is therefore of great interest not only to scholars of religious studies but to anyone in the human sciences curious about the contours of the present.
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