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Burning ashes : an anthropological study of intellectual and moral judgment in the Historians' Debate / by Regina M. Feldman.

Publication | Library Call Number: DD256.48 .F45 1999

This dissertation examines the formation of intellectual and moral judgment in the German Historikerstreit of 1986/87 from an anthropological perspective. The Debate focused on four themes: the singularity of the Holocaust, projects of historicization (that is efforts to integrate National Socialism into “normal” German history), German identity, and the Holocaust. Most explicit statements in the Debate dealt with the question of the singularity of the Holocaust; each following theme was subject to less explicit attention. This decline in attention correlates with the depth of meaning each has for German post-war society. I argue that the Historians' Debate was motivated by the theme that remained mostly latent in the Debate, the Holocaust, more precisely, the inability to work through the National Socialist past. The anthropological character of this study is due to three modes of investigation: first, the Debate is analyzed in the contexts of German culture and politics. Second, the Debate is investigated from the “stranger's point of view”, thereby elaborates the unquestioned aspects of historical practice, in this instance, primarily the values which govern professional judgment. Third, anthropological analysis is critical and self-reflective. The central methodological tool for this analysis, the dialogical conception of the relationship between texts and contexts, also translates into the idea that the anthropological critic must try to come to terms with the “transferential” relationship between her/himself and the text. I also examine the Historians' Debate from the perspective of historiography, for example the workings of representation and silence in the Debate, and the perspective of an ethics of professional scholarship. From the perspective of an anthropology of science, German historians form a community in which intellectually legitimate and morally responsible scholarship is socially negotiated. I argue in favor of an ethics of historical practice which aims at expanding solidarity with the victims of the Holocaust and the many “others” in contemporary German society through empathy. The study ends with some thoughts on the possibilities of creating a “culture of inclusion” against the dangers of a premature closure of history.

Feldman, Regina M.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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