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Guest Lecture - "Monumental Memory, Moral Superiority, and Contemporary Disconnects"

Friday, February 14, 2014
12:00 AM
Modern Language Building 3308

A part of the Department's Graduate Studies Colloquium series

This essay re-engages a critical component of my recent work on Holocaust memory amidst contemporary racisms in light of Allan Pred's Benjamin inspired interventions on questions of history, danger and cultural racisms, “even in Sweden.” In line with Pred's and Benjamin’s insights, it takes specific historically situated articulations of racisms and danger as a mode of understanding contemporary life. My investigation is located in Germany, and even more specifically, in Berlin. Germany is significant to the extent that it (at least symbolically) continues to immediately conjure up images not only of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and Porches, but also of genocide and its memorialization. While Germany continues to be thought of as an exceptional case, putting Pred's articulation of apparent surprise (i.e., “even in Sweden”) in reverse, I argue that Germany is emblematic of the break that allows European nation-states and Europe as a whole to insist on moral superiority that requires forgetting the links between genocide, colonialism, racisms, conquest, and contemporary life, as if the danger of European perpetration resides only in the past. Colonialism and conquest are more often than not represented in an ambivalent way (obliquely in terms of a civilizing mission), if remembered at all. The monumentality of the remembering of genocide in Europe, though, takes the place of further reflection, as if the past could be mastered and require no further intervention from new (unanticipated) subjects.