Photography and Memory in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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The theories of countermonumental architecture critiqued in the last chapter can be related to tendencies of memory and trauma studies that extend well beyond the German monumental landscape. The ascription of agency to architecture in particular and memory texts in general, the implication that such texts are inherently traumatic or that they have the capacity to witness the past has been found elsewhere, by the present study, in the theory and practice of cultural memory. The German national context of countermonumental architecture highlights the ethical implications when texts are said to displace the original witnesses or create new ones in their place to trauma of the texts’ own making. In the process of theorising these possibilities, what such theoretical discourse often fails to do is to dismantle problematic national narratives. In shifting the cultural terrain from Germany to the US, the following finds a similar tendency. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) has attracted criticism for its Americanisation or nationalisation of Holocaust memory, which subsumes the experiences and identities of the Holocaust’s victims in the construction of an American identity in relation to the past. However, museums can be read against the grain, their affective exhibits used to un-ground their intended meanings.
KeywordsCollective Memory Jewish Identity Photographic Image Holocaust Survivor Museum Visitor
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