Dr Victoria Grace Walden
University of Sussex, UK
Tuesday 19th January (online): 5pm (France), 4pm (UK)
#TogetherAsOne: Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II and The Holocaust during the Covid-19 Pandemic
We usually consider commemoration events to involve people coming together in a specific location to perform a set of ritualistic behaviours. Embodied co-mingling and co-performance are the very essences of co-mmemoration. Whilst ceremonies were held for international Holocaust Memorial Day (which marks the liberation of Auschwitz) in January 2020, soon after the world faced major restrictions on in-person gatherings due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Organisations had to quickly rethink their plans for what would have been huge commemorative events at sites like Bergen-Belsen, Neuengamme and elsewhere.
In this talk, I will explore three commemorative case studies: the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising), and the March of the Living (which usually involves Jewish youth visiting heritage and atrocity sites in Poland). I will consider the extent to which the shift to online-only provision in place of commemorative events offers new conceptualisations of the form of commemoration.
If commemoration events are rooted in togetherness, physical place and ritualistic performativity, to what extent do digital commemorations, often accessed asynchronously from afar, domestic private spaces rather than public places, offer new ways to think about what commemoration is, and what it can be? Do they simply remediate physical events or do they differ so much from their offline counterparts that they cease to be commemorations at all, but rather present new forms of memory practice?
Dr Victoria Grace Walden is a senior lecturer in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities at the University of Sussex, UK. She leads the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Research Group of the Sussex Weidenfeld Institute of Jewish Studies and is an Associate of the Sussex Humanities Lab, which specialises in digital humanities. She is also co-chair of the Museums and Memory Working Group of the international Memory Studies Association. Her research interests are in the relationship between digital media and genocide remembrance. She is creator of the website www.digitalholocaustmemory.com which runs an active blog and webinar series with academics and heritage professionals from across the world. She is author of Cinematic Intermedialities and Contemporary Holocaust Memory (Palgrave Macmillan 2019), and editor and contributor to two forthcoming collections The Memorial Museum in the Digital Age (REFRAME 2021) and Digital Holocaust Memory, Research and Education (Palgrave Macmillan 2021). Her work has been published in Memory Studies, Holocaust Studies: Culture and History, The Journal of Media Practice, Animation Studies, Frames Cinema Journal, and Short Film Studies Journal.
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