Making stories, making selves : the Holocaust, identity and memory / by R. Ruth Linden.
This dissertation explores the interconnected phenomena of remembering, storytelling and self-fashioning in Holocaust survivors' narratives. Through the practice of critical ethnography, my own life stories as an assimilated American Jew are intertwined with Holocaust survivors' accounts. Against a background of representational concerns and epistemological critiques in the human sciences, I produce reflexive narratives in which recursive mirroring occurs between Holocaust survivors and myself. Using life-history interviews conducted in 1981 and 1983, I examine the "phenomenology of survival" in the Nazi death camps and in the Dutch resistance. My understanding of the significance of stories for representing lives is informed by the work of Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt and Barbara Myerhoff. Along with the Holocaust survivors I interviewed, I also am an ethnographic subject in my text, variously inscribed as: interviewer, interpreter, author, editor and narrator. By dissolving the self/other duality, many selves speak in and through my writing. I strive to produce multiple and indeterminate interpretations of life stories, to represent non-reified subjects, and to reveal how fieldwork and writing reproduce relations of authority and domination. My work "violates" many narrative conventions in an effort to expose them by their absence. I aim to reveal the means of textual production in my own writing in order to show how data lend themselves to multiple interpretations. I decenter subjects and disburse them throughout the text, and blur conventional distinctions between the researcher/author and ethnographic subjects. My intention is to experience the phenomenology of remembering as I write about it. Thus, I refashion my own life stories in an effort to understand how memories are constructed, edited and made into stories. Using this approach, I have written about my grandparents' emigrations from Eastern Europe, negotiated meanings of Jewish identity in my family of origin, and the making and remaking of my feminist identities.
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