Please join us for Maya Gal’s doctoral proposal defence on Wednesday, June 28, 10:00am-12:00pm online via Zoom.
Zoom invite link here.
All are welcome!
Supervisor: Dr. Teresa Dobson
Committee members: Drs. Penney Clark and Theresa Rogers
Dissertation Title: Investigating Postmemory Relationships with the Holocaust
In speaking of Holocaust education, Adam Brown (2013) suggests educators face a paradoxical dilemma of “representing the unrepresentable” and “speaking the unspeakable” (p. 4). Since the Second World War, approaches have included formal classroom curricula in many countries (e.g., Elkad-Lehman, 2018; Gray, 2015; Pearce, 2018), educational programming via broadcast media and film (e.g., Balint, 2018; Hirsch, 2020; Löschnigg, 2014), teaching of Holocaust literature (e.g., Gray, 2015; Kinzie, 2012), and museum efforts such as interactive exhibits, survivor and expert recordings, document and photograph galleries, videos, etc. (e.g., Kaplan, 2011; Miles, 2002; Salem Mgamis, 2017; Pearce, 2018). Questions of whether the Holocaust should be taught, and how, continue to trouble educators and policymakers worldwide (e.g., Bauer, 2014; Chisholm & Whitmore, 2017; Foster et al., 2020). Yehuda Bauer (2014) claims the Holocaust is unique among other genocides, since “the Nazi genocide of the Jews was . . . totally devoid of any pragmatic basis” (p. 72). He further observes that of the 35 million who died during World War II, “twenty-nine million were non-Jews, who died in large part because of the murderous antisemitism of the Nazis, which was a central part of the ideology that led to the war” (p. 69). The Holocaust is therefore often regarded as a universal danger for all (e.g., Bauer, 2014; Brown, 2013; Cohen, 2015; Foster et al., 2020). For this reason, many argue it must be taught, and taught well – in ways that are accessible and relevant – to people around the globe (e.g., Chisholm & Whitmore, 2017; Cohen, 2015). Bodo von Borries (2017) notes that the purpose of Holocaust education is twofold: 1) it memorializes vast loss of life and regrets “losses for those who remained and follow after”; and 2) it serves as a learning tool “to enable the prevention of genocides, the promotion of peace education, of human rights, of tolerance, of democracy, and of good citizenship” (p. 27). Additionally, the importance of anti-racist education in view of violence stemming from racism is widely acknowledged (e.g., Alderman, 2021; Borsheim-Black, 2019; Gray, 2020).
Many studies examine the merits and challenges of different approaches to Holocaust education (e.g., Auron, 2003; Bauer, 2014; Cohen, 2016; Foster et al., 2020; Gross & Stevick, 2015; Totten, 2015; Pearce, 2018), and a majority of those conclude a general lack of critical understanding, knowledge, and self-reflection remain a concern around the globe (e.g., Foster et al., 2016; Foster et al., 2020; Totten, 2015). A sense of urgency furthers these concerns: January 27th, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The Memorial and Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau estimates approximately 1.1 million victims perished in what is considered one of the deadliest Nazi concentration camps (Memorial & Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, n.d.). As Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (2020) has noted, this anniversary “is also the last major Holocaust anniversary where survivors may be alive to tell their stories” (para. 3). That is, we have entered a “postmemory” era of Holocaust education, which begs the following question: if Holocaust education is important for all the reasons outlined above, what type of learning experiences might be most meaningful for learners in establishing postmemory connections with this genocide?
In this doctoral research, I propose to explore the types of postmemory connections learners can establish with the Holocaust to better understand which learning experiences are more striking and powerful to individual learners. By creating a personal connection with the event, scholars believe that learning becomes more individualized, deeply rooted and, therefore, more useful in the promotion of antiracist education (e.g., Cohen, 2016; Foster et al., 2016; Resnik, 2003). Throughout this work I use Marianne Hirsch’s most recent definition of postmemory; which describes the term as “the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma or transformation of those who came before” (Hirsch, 2019, p. 172). My research question is as follows: what types of learning experiences are effective in creating postmemory relationships with the Holocaust?