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Re-curating Testimony: Pedagogy for “Self-Aware” Witnessing
Conflict, Memory, and Reconciliation: Bridging past, present, and future
  • Erica Lehrer, Concordia University, Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV)
  • Monica Eileen Patterson, Concordia University, Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV)
Start Date
12-1-2012 1:30 PM
End Date
12-1-2012 3:00 PM
This paper will present the pedagogical approaches and initial outcomes from our experimental seminar at Concordia University titled “Curating Difficult Knowledge: Engaging with the aftermath of violence through public displays, memorials, and sites of conscience.” In this seminar, we sought to engage students in both critical examination and creative production around the question of what it means to “learn from the past” as global violence continues, based on a series of assignments designed to (1) bring them into deep engagement with survivor testimony while highlighting the numerous factors mediating this encounter; and (2) produce public displays based on this testimony that highlight these factors. The goal was for students to both learn about and apply their knowledge by actually attempting the hard work of representation at a critical historical juncture first hand. The emergent pedagogical insights will explore the many ways that ever-larger circles of people, removed in terms of community, generation, experience, are being asked to relate to Holocaust testimonies existing apart from their tellers. We will draw from our experience in critical museology, working with survivor testimony, and our respective attempts to develop new methodologies, pedagogy, and theory for confronting these difficult dilemmas. Stories of suffering are generally approached in the public realm with the sense that they are difficult because they contain subject matter that is painful, tragic, or gruesome. Less public attention is typically paid to the problems inherent in their transmission: that they are inevitably mediated, perspectival, and often contested. Our analysis of the process and final products produced in this course highlight the social lives of testimony and the broader work of memory in ethnographic terms, as it is concretely deployed in sites of embodied social practice. We continually remind students about social and cultural difference, power and perspective, and that in a global age, one cannot presumed a unitary “public” who will predictably consider, sympathize, or identify with Holocaust-related materials.
Citation Information
Erica Lehrer and Monica Eileen Patterson. "Re-curating Testimony: Pedagogy for “Self-Aware” Witnessing" (2012)
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