State-constructed memory and meaning obstruct the confrontation of racism as genocide. Calls to consciousness, relying on mystified and Eurocentric constructions of humanity and suffering, are conditioned by the surrealism and hypocrisy of regret. With the loss of European life as the only common and binding referent for such atrocities, no conventional language can denounce the genocide of Native and African Americans as meaningful or morally and politically tragic. Problematizing resistance through this language, Native, African, and European American writers use German Nazism as the recognized referent for the terms holocaust and fascism to make U.S. genocidal practices meaningful.
Today, the language of the holocaust cannot be understood apart from the Jewish experience. Historically, this argument is suspect, if not inadequate. The intent of this proposed anthology is to understand why this national investment is made and to what extent these terms impact debates concerning genocide beyond the Jewish community. In rallies, demonstrations, museums, movies, and political debates across the United States and, throughout the world, remembrance of the Jewish Holocaust is mobilized in causes ranging from international genocide tribunals to the defense of Israel. In newspapers, articles appear daily on the legacies of the Holocaust, the continued struggle for reparations, and the eternal need to “make sure it never happens again.”
Within this context of hyper-visibility, if not obsession within the United States, even beyond the Jewish community’s, a number of scholars have recently challenged the usefulness of such a hyper-focus on the Jewish Holocaust, which some have described as a “Holocaust Industry.” This project continues this critical interrogation by moving toward an understanding of how the “Holocaust Industry” plays out in those communities, discourses and debates within the United States that are not exclusively the domain of Jewish or Holocaust Studies as they are traditionally defined. In taking this step, this anthology attempts to decenter the Jewish Holocaust from the ubiquitous discussions of genocide, reparations and U.S.-Israel relations. Our exploration of the arbitrary centering of the Shoah within a number of other discourses, in terms of addressing its presence and affects on the reparations debates, history of genocide, U.S. foreign policy and a number other sites represents a step toward its rightful displacement from these spaces. The Jewish Holocaust, citing its supposed uniqueness, cannot continuously be used as the yardstick or point of reference for all incidents of genocide and xenophobia. This project urges a critical interrogation by moving toward an understanding of how a “Holocaust Industry” influences national and international communities, discourses and debates. We therefore attempts to displace the “Holocaust Industry” from these discourses while centering the specifically national, and more generally genocidal histories which the Jewish Holocaust’s current hyper-visibility inherently stifles our understanding of.
In recent years, a number of scholars have challenged the hegemonic position of the Shoah within American life. Peter Novick in The Holocaust in American Life goes so far as to suggest the over-emphasis is largely ahistorical: “. . . the available evidence doesn’t suggest that overall, American Jews (let alone American gentiles) were traumatized by the Holocaust . . .” Although the Shoah is not specifically part of the United States’ historiography, the Jewish Holocaust is continuously reinscribed as part of American history. The establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the National Mall no less, reflects this obsession. There are additional examples revealing the cultural centrality of the industry, ranging from shelves of books and movies, to state-sponsored holidays. Every state in the United States sponsors annual Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Days, many of which are held in the chambers of state legislatures. Furthermore, the United States boasts over one hundred Jewish Holocaust institutions, including seven museums. The US thus enacts its obsession with the Shoah in a myriad of ways. The central question of this anthology is: what is the impact of this fixation and the accompanying “Holocaust Industry” on “minority” discourses as well as those related social, political, economic and psychological spaces?
The bulk of the existing critical literature, most importantly the work of Peter Novick, Christopher Browning, Yehuda Bauer and Norman Finkelstein, to name only a few, that examines the construction of the Jewish Holocaust have either ignored the ways in which the “Holocaust Industry” impacts discussions unrelated to the historical event of the Shoah, or reify the centrality and exceptional nature of the Jewish historical experience. Focusing on its affects within the Jewish community and subsequent Jewish identity development, the literature has merely hinted at, if not obfuscated, the significance of the Shoah in American life. This project solicits papers for a critical anthology that will further open this door to fully explore the ways in which the Jewish Holocaust plays out in a number of spaces. We request papers that address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
Genocide/Slavery in the Americas
U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestinian Authority
US foreign relations
Critical Holocaust/Jewish Studies and Anti-Semitism
Whiteness and Jewish/Holocaust Studies
This anthology will bring together a number of scholars, both the established and the aspiring, to study the meaning of genocidal violence in the histories of the Americas when filtered through a European event. Additionally, the work will comment on the need to study genocide in a context that centers communities of color and the genocidal contours specific to racial projects predating the Shoah by centuries. Such a direction will not only permit a more detailed exploration of the cultural power of the “Holocaust Industry,” and its construction, manipulation, dissemination and reception, but more importantly will explore the ways and sites in which a Shoah discourse impacts and affects social policy, community relations, historical understanding and identity formation in areas of study generally seen as unrelated to Holocaust Studies. As an anthology this project will provide a forum for experts in a variety of fields to comment on the effects and articulations within these other discussions/discourses.
Your 500-word abstract/proposal and a brief CV must be received by January 20, 2003. Please send all correspondences to via mail or email to:
Washington State University
PO Box 644010
Pullman, WA 99164-4010
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