Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

Synopsis

Multidirectional Memory brings together Holocaust studies and postcolonial studies for the first time. Employing a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, the book makes a twofold argument about Holocaust memory in a global age by situating it in the unexpected context of decolonization. On the one hand, it demonstrates how the Holocaust has enabled the articulation of other histories of victimization at the same time that it has been declared "unique" among human-perpetrated horrors. On the other, it uncovers the more surprising and seldom acknowledged fact that public memory of the Holocaust emerged in part thanks to postwar events that seem at first to have little to do with it. In particular, Multidirectional Memory highlights how ongoing processes of decolonization and movements for civil rights in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere unexpectedly galvanized memory of the Holocaust.

Rothberg engages with both well-known and non-canonical intellectuals, writers, and filmmakers, including Hannah Arendt, Aimé Césaire, Charlotte Delbo, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marguerite Duras, Michael Haneke, Jean Rouch, and William Gardner Smith.

Excerpt

In a characteristically provocative essay on the relationship between racism and anti-Semitism in contemporary America, the literary critic Walter Benn Michaels considers the seemingly incompatible legacies of slavery and the Nazi genocide in the United States:

Why is there a federally funded U.S. Holocaust Museum on the Mall in Wash
ington, DC?… the difficulty of coming up with a satisfactory answer to this
question has produced a certain exasperation among African Americans, memo
rably expressed by the notorious black racist Khalid Muhammad when, in the
wake of a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, he told an audience at
Howard University on 3 April 1994 that “the black holocaust was 100 times worse
than the so-called Jew Holocaust. You say you lost six million. We question that,
but… we lost 600 million. Schindler’s List,” as Muhammad put it, “is really a
swindler’s list.” the force of these remarks consists not in the absurd Holocaust
denial but in the point—made precisely by his visit to the Holocaust Museum—
that commemoration of the Nazi murder of the Jews on the Mall was in fact an
other kind of Holocaust denial. Why should what the Germans did to the Jews be
treated as a crucial event in American history, especially when, given the absence

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