Sites of judgment : the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the politics of visiting : a thesis in political science / by Mark Allan Bower
Includes bibliographical references (p. -246)
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This dissertation defines political judgment as a relationship between self, object and other, and uses the metaphor of “visiting” to illustrate two forms of aesthetic judgment based on an ethic of asymmetrical reciprocity. Whether it is a result of mass culture's tendency toward spectacle, or liberalism's tendency to equate tolerance with the symmetry of silence, citizens of mass democracy too often conclude, “It is not my place to judge.” Because we judge on a political landscape marked by the boundaries of expert knowledge and cultural identities, and not in the vacuum of an idealized political sphere, judgment must account for these asymmetries. Recent attempts to redefine judgment have made two contributions to this end. First, they have distinguished the activity of the spectator from passivity of the bystander. Second, they have attempted to ground the validity of judgment in the community. However, by ignoring the mediating role of the object of judgment, these efforts tend to slip into the objectification of the other. I advance these contributions by defining judgment as a relationship between self, object and other. I use this definition as a framework for interpreting the work of Arendt and Lyotard. Arendt's “enlarged mentality” and Lyotard's “bearing witness to the differend” politicize Kant's aesthetics. Their use of travel metaphors suggests the importance of the site in which judgment occurs. Drawing upon Arendt's and Lyotard's work, I develop the metaphor of “visiting” to describe a politics based on an ethic of asymmetrical reciprocity. I then turn my attention to the museum which, as a contested terrain, is a site of asymmetrical encounters. The visitor's ability to judge the museum's objects threatens, and is restricted by, the expert knowledge of the curator. The judgment of both visitor and curator are contested by claims from representatives of other cultures. I illustrate this encounter through a reflection on a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I conclude that the enlarged mentality and bearing witness to the differend are complementary practices that correspond to the practices of memorialization and monumentalization.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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