Beyond the era of the witness
Beyond the era of the witness: testimony, digital media, and the afterlives of Holocaust memory
Dr Noah Shenker
About the project
My current book project is a co-authored exploration of new media representations of the Holocaust.
My co-author, Dan Leopard, and I look at several digital interfaces, including the USC Shoah Foundation's Dimensions in Testimony project (DiT). The pilot version of the DiT project features a life-sized avatar of Pinchas Gutter coupled with voice recognition software that allows users to “talk” with a digital rendering of that Polish Jewish survivor. Our work argues that although new forms of testimony such as this mark a shift in ways of curating survivor narratives, neither the content nor representation of those accounts are altogether new. Rather, they draw upon preexisting practices of Holocaust testimony as well as a longer historical lineage of media spectacle and pedagogy.
Beyond the Era of the Witness represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between our combined expertise in Jewish studies and Holocaust and genocide studies, particularly on issues of ethics, testimony, trauma, and representation, and media studies, focusing on new media pedagogy, AI and cognitive science, and arts-based research practice. By combining scholarly essay prose with our creation of image-based (comics) forms of inquiry, this work takes an innovative approach to academic inquiry - one that can capture the intersubjective and often uncanny aspects of virtual interfaces.
Related publications and conference papers
"Digital Testimony and the Future of Witnessing", in A Companion to the Holocaust, S. Gigliotti and H. Earl (eds). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Blackwell, 2020.
Related talks and events
“Pinchas Gutter: The Figure of Holocaust Testimony as Embodied Archive and Interactive Documentary”, Yale University public lecture, March 2019.
“Reframing Holocaust Testimony: The Spaces within and beyond the Camera’s Frame”, Public Keynote Address at The Visual History Archive conference, American University Paris, George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention, France, October 2017.