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Decentering Holocaust Studies: Comparative Perspectives from the Global South

Decentering Holocaust Studies: Comparative Perspectives from the Global South

July 26–August 6, 2021 The application deadline has passed.

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum invites applications for a research workshop entitled Decentering Holocaust Studies: Comparative Perspectives from the Global South. The Mandel Center will co-convene this workshop with Nancy Nicholls Lopeandia, Department of History, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Yael Siman Druker, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Iberoamericana University.The workshop will take place at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center.

The workshop is scheduled for July 26–August 6, 2021. In the event that it is impossible to convene during those dates due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the workshop will be held in a hybrid format consisting of a series of short online sessions over the course of the Summer and Fall of 2021, and an in-person program convened at the Museum for May 23–27, 2022.

Between 1933 and 1950, 100,000 refugees and Holocaust survivors, predominantly Jews and smaller number of Roma, immigrated to Latin America. Thousands more fled to mostly colonized spaces in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Throughout the Global South, these exiles re-created cultural and emotional communities, transferring European identities and experiences of Nazi persecution across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Jewish communities in African countries were profoundly changed by events in Europe, while local host communities in Asia were affected by the refuge they offered to Jewish escapees. Holocaust survivors who arrived to multiple localities in the Global South chose to silence their traumatic experience, or resort to fragmented and sensorial sharing. They became part of transnational and transimperial emotional communities that were influenced by both events in Europe and their local contexts. Though these profound experiences of dispersion, displacement, and dislocation were a central lived experience for so many Jews and Roma at this time, their histories and those of their sites of refuge and escape have long figured as “marginal,” consigned to the periphery of the field of Holocaust studies.

This workshop seeks to bring these histories into a wider scholarly frame in order to identify their commonalities and as well as the centrality of the margin. Our approach takes up the call, from John and Jean Comaroff (2012) and others, to theorize world historical events from the South. In doing so, our comparative approach across sites in the South will consider not only the dominant places of the margin, but also the less studied ones. We conceive of the margin as a transregional space where interconnected histories of dispersion and fragmentation, new beginnings, transit, trauma, and reconfiguration took shape, often in colonial settings. Living in a locality that was distinct from the European sites of extermination could impact the ways in which trauma was processed by the victims. Indifference to the fate of Jewish and Romani victims, or the formulation of restrictive immigration policies could also be understood if studying the local ways in which Nazism, racial ideas, or anti-Jewish prejudice operated in the South, before, during, and after the Holocaust. The Holocaust and how its legacies were locally expressed has the potential to expand our knowledge and understanding of the scope and depth of genocide. 

We welcome proposals that address the study of the Holocaust from the Global South, broadly understood. 

Daily sessions of the workshop will be comprised of presentations and roundtable discussions led by participants, as well as discussions with Museum staff and research in the Museum’s collections. The workshop will be conducted in English. 

Museum Resources

The Museum’s National Institute for Holocaust Documentation houses an unparalleled repository of Holocaust evidence that documents the fate of victims, survivors, rescuers, liberators, and others. The Museum’s resources include approximately 110 million pages of Holocaust-related archival documentation; library resources in over 60 languages; hundreds of thousands of oral history, film, photo, art, artifacts, and memoir collections; and the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database, which contains about 11.5 million name records and over 44,000 list records. In addition, the Museum possesses the holdings of the International Tracing Service (ITS), which contains more than 200 million digitized pages with information on the fates of 17.5 million people who were subject to incarceration, forced labor, and displacement as a result of World War II. Many of these records have not been examined by scholars, offering unprecedented opportunities to advance the field of Holocaust and genocide studies.

Highlights from our Collections

Participants will have access to both the Museum’s downtown campus and the David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center. To search the Museum’s collections, please visit the collections catalog.

For More Information

Direct questions to Krista Hegburg, PhD, Senior Program Officer, International Academic Programs Division, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, at