Visualizing Atrocity: Arendt, Evil, and the Optics of Thoughtlessness

Overview

Visualizing Atrocity takes Hannah Arendt’s provocative and polarizing account of the 1961 trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann as its point of departure for reassessing some of the serviceable myths that have come to shape and limit our understanding both of the Nazi genocide and totalitarianism’s broader, constitutive, and recurrent features. These myths are inextricably tied to and reinforced viscerally by the atrocity imagery that emerged with the liberation of the concentration camps at the war’s end and ...

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Visualizing Atrocity: Arendt, Evil, and the Optics of Thoughtlessness

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Overview

Visualizing Atrocity takes Hannah Arendt’s provocative and polarizing account of the 1961 trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann as its point of departure for reassessing some of the serviceable myths that have come to shape and limit our understanding both of the Nazi genocide and totalitarianism’s broader, constitutive, and recurrent features. These myths are inextricably tied to and reinforced viscerally by the atrocity imagery that emerged with the liberation of the concentration camps at the war’s end and played an especially important, evidentiary role in the postwar trials of perpetrators.

At the 1945 Nuremberg Tribunal, particular practices of looking and seeing were first established with respect to these images that were later reinforced and institutionalized through Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem as simply part of the fabric of historical fact. They have come to constitute a certain visual rhetoric that now circumscribes the moral and political fields and powerfully assists in contemporary mythmaking about how we know genocide and what is permitted to count as such. In contrast, Arendt’s claims about the “banality of evil” work to disrupt this visual rhetoric. More significantly still, they direct our attention well beyond the figure of Eichmann to a world organized now as then by practices and processes that while designed to sustain and even enhance life work as well to efface it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A compelling and broad-reaching manuscript that will be of great interest not only to scholars of Arendt and Eichmann, but to those who want to think more generally about the interrelationship of political judgment and visual culture.”-Judith Butler,University of California, Berkeley

“A beautifully written and brilliantly argued intervention into the project of intellectual history that breaks new ground in its complex reframing of the key questions of morality and justice in our times.”-Marita Sturken,NYU

"By relating the visual to the criminal and political issues of the Nazi genocide, Eichmann, and Arendt, Hartouni poses critical questions on justice and morality that resonant in other genocides and in our time."-Lia Deromedi,Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814738498
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/20/2012
  • Pages: 205

Meet the Author

Valerie Hartouni is Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego, and author of Cultural Conceptions: On Reproductive Technologies and the Remaking of Life.
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Table of Contents

1 Arendt and the Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Contextualizing the Debate

2 Ideology and Atrocity

3 Thoughtlessness and Evil

4 “Crimes against the Human Status”: Nuremberg and the Image of Evil

5 The Banality of Evil

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