Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

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What happens when different histories confront each other in the public sphere? Does the remembrance of one history erase others from view? When memories of slavery and colonialism bump up against memories of the Holocaust in contemporary multicultural societies, must a competition of victims ensue? Multidirectional Memory addresses these vexing questions by advancing a new theory of remembrance that challenges the basic tenets of current thinking on cultural memory and group identity. Most discussions of the relationship between memory and identity today are based on a zero-sum logic in which the evocation of one group's history is said to block other groups' histories from view. Rothberg contrasts this model of "competitive memory" with a theory of "multidirectional memory" that redescribes the public sphere as a field of contestation where memories interact productively and in unexpected ways. By making visible an intellectual and artistic countertradition that links memories of genocide and colonialism, he reveals how the public articulation of collective memory by marginalized and oppositional social groups provides resources for other groups to stake their own claims for recognition and justice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rothberg's study is published in the prestigious 'Cultural Memory in the Present' series, and will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on memory studies and related fields . . . [I]t is to be hoped that Multidirectional Memory will inspire further recuperation of 'forgotten' works, and accompanying reassessments of the political entanglements of writers positions (and positionings)."—Anne Whitehead, Interventions: Journal of Postcolonial Studies

"The book fleshes out a powerful genealogy for multidirectional memory as well as a more sustained account of how, more specifically, Holocaust memory and colonial memory come together in France around the legacy of the Algerian War."—Laura Levitt, H-Net Reviews

"Ground-breaking book . . . Thanks to Rothberg, we are able to engage more thoughtfully with our knotted past — and with our tangled future, too."—Jonathan Druker, Illinois State University

"Multidirectional Memory is a pathbreaking work of interdisciplinary scholarship that will reconfigure the fields of Holocaust Studies and post-colonial theory. Rothberg's powerful study of the relations between Holocaust memory and decolonization illuminates the 'multidirectional' orientation of collective memory through half a century of transnational cultural production in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and North Africa (with an emphasis on postwar France)."—Debarati Sanyal, University of California, Berkeley

"This is the first book to take up the transnational and cross-disciplinary politics of memory in ways adequate to the difficulties and pitfalls of the topic. In its readings of theoretical and literary texts primarily from the 1950s and 1960s, it confronts the Holocaust with decolonization, successfully questioning the 'color line' separating these two discourses today. Deft in argument and subtle in its analyses, Rothberg's book provides an exciting new direction for memory studies in the humanities and in social thought. A compelling read!"—Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804762182
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 1,204,560
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Rothberg is Professor of English and Director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Introduction: Theorizing Multidirectional Memory in a Transnational Age 1

Part I Boomerang Effects: Bare Life, Trauma, and the Colonial Turn in Holocaust Studies

2 At the Limits of Eurocentrism: Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism 33

3 "Un Choc en Retour": Aimé Césaire's Discourses on Colonialism and Genocide 66

Part II Migrations of Memory: Ruins, Ghettos, Diasporas

4 W. E. B. Du Bois in Warsaw: Holocaust Memory and the Color Line 111

5 Anachronistic Aesthetics: André Schwarz-Bart and Caryl Phillips on the Ruins of Memory 135

Part III Truth, Torture, Testimony: Holocaust Memory During the Algerian War

6 The Work of Testimony in the Age of Decolonization: Chronicle of a Summer and the Emergence of the Holocaust Survivor 175

7 The Counterpublic Witness: Charlotte Delbo's Les belles lettres 199

Part IV October 17, 1961: A Site of Holocaust Memory?

8 A Tale of Three Ghettos: Race, Gender, and "Universality" After October 17, 1961 227

9 Hidden Children: The Ethics of Multigenerational Memory After 1961 267

Epilogue: Multidirectional Memory in an Age of Occupations 309

Notes 315

Index 365

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