Perpetrator Studies Network


6 - 9 July 2017
Utrecht University

Ambivalent Affect: Perpetration in Contemporary Representations of the Holocaust. ACLA Seminar

In recent discourse on the ethical stakes of aesthetic representations of the Holocaust, the function of perpetrator figures has taken on a prominent role. Moreover, recent literary texts, films and artworks about the Holocaust have focused prominently on perpetrator figures. By eliciting often highly ambivalent empathic responses from readers and viewers for their perpetrator characters, such works challenge the rigidity with which widely-shared perceptions of absolute evil have allowed the aesthetic commemoration of the Holocaust to place the events at a distance.

These works also demonstrate that the question of perpetration is fundamentally inherent to Holocaust representation, provoking for cultural scholars a number of critical ethical and aesthetic concerns. However, cultural criticism has only recently begun to develop an adequate methodological and taxonomical framework for analyzing the uncomfortable centrality of perpetration to how we conceptualize and commemorate the Holocaust. This seminar aims to address these issues by both facilitating the exchange of ideas between researchers already addressing such issues and encouraging newcomers to this line of inquiry.

This seminar is organized by Erin McGlothlin and Gerd Bayer in the context of the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association. It features amongst its participants several members of the Perpetrator Studies Network.

Image credit: Art installation “HIM” by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP