Nancy Alhachem gives a working paper on ‚Cultural Trauma, Memory and Affect‘

This project explores the practices of memory among refugees and migrants (mostly from Arab countries such as Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians), in the light of Rosa’s resonance theory, which suggests ‘thinking and feeling in exchange’, to allow the other, whether it is a person, an object or, a memory, to be touched by it and result in an affect that is felt individually. My project will investigate the obstacles that could hinder this resonance between the migrant’s memory and the Germans’ Erinnerungskultur. A substantial part of the latter is focused on the coming to terms with the Holocaust, and therefore shapes German national and cultural identity. It also plays a major role in the interaction between different groups in German society. As shown in my MA dissertation, refugees and migrants from countries shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict struggle to adopt the German narrative of the Holocaust and of National Socialism. In my PhD thesis, this conflict will be investigated by exploring the role of museums and memorials. In order to do so, museums and memorials dealing with the Holocaust will be understood as ‘resonant spaces’, which allow memories to be communicated and exchanged. Investigating the historical background from which the migrants come helps understand the obstacles that could hinder a resonant experience. Such obstacles are national ideologies, the portrayal of the Holocaust in the country of origin, and the conflict that affected the region. I therefore suggest a multidirectional approach to memory, because it allows that different groups enter into a dialogue instead of competing with each other over narratives on numbers of victims and the amount of suffering, topics
usually associated with Holocaust studies. Cultural trauma is conceptualized as a ‘linking experience’, allowing for a reciprocal resonance between the migrants on one side and the German society on the other side. Hence, the central subjects of my thesis deals with the refugees and the Holocaust remembrance in the German context, memory and identity in the shades of a country new to the refugees, who are asked to integrate by adopting a narrative of the Holocaust that is foreign to them because of their upbringing. It will also deal with the role of colonialism and nationalism that made the European culture of remembrance distinct from others; as will be shown, even opposed to that of the Arab one; and it will explore the role of the Holocaust in the German national (cultural) identity of a generation that is increasingly removed from the events.