17 March | Symposium Representing Genocide

On March 17, 2015, the Center for Historical Culture organizes the symposium Representing Genocide. Speakers are Andrej Kotljarchuk (Södertörn University/Stockholm University) and Laurike in 't Veld (University of Chistecher).


Location: Lecture room C1-05, Erasmus University Rotterdam campus Woudestein

14:30-14:45 Welcome by prof. dr. Maria Grever and prof. dr. Kees Ribbens
14:45-15:15 Andrej Kotljarchuk, The Nazi Massacre of Roma in Babi Yar in Soviet and Ukrainian Historical Culture
15:15-16:00 Discussion
16:00-16:30 Laurike in 't Veld, The Doll Figure: (In)human Visual Metaphors in Graphic Novels Dealing with Genocide
16:30-17:15 Discussion
17:15-18:00 Drink


The Nazi Massacre of Roma in Babi Yar in Soviet and Ukrainian Historical Culture
Andrej Kotljarchuk

Babi Yar in Kiev, Ukraine is considered a single largest Holocaust massacre in Eastern Europe. The place is a chine of seven deep ravines in the north-western part of Kiev. There on September 29-30, 1941, more than 33,000 Jews were exterminated by Nazis in a single mass killing. In 1941-43 hundreds of Ukrainian Roma were also murdered there. The total number of victims (Jews, Roma, Soviet underground fighters, mentally ill people, Ukrainian nationalists) killed by the Nazis in Babi Yar is estimated at 100,000 people.

In 1991 the government of independent Ukraine allowed the establishment of new memorials at Babi Yar specifically identifying the victims of Jewish and Roma genocides. The Jewish memorial was built in the same year. A number of various monuments were erected in Baby Yar during last decade, however the Romani genocide memorial is still under construction; which makes the struggle over the past a reflexive landmark for Ukrainian memorializing of the genocide.

The Doll Figure: (In)human Visual Metaphors in Graphic Novels Dealing with Genocide
Laurike in 't Veld

In the last few decades, comic books, or ‘graphic novels’, have been recognised and theorised as a valuable and relatively under-researched medium that is capable of successfully dealing with a range of historical and non-fictional topics. Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking comic book Maus (1986 & 1991), in which he deals with the Holocaust experiences of his father Vladek, was instrumental in demonstrating the potential of the medium in dealing with a serious, historical subject like the Holocaust. In the wake of Spiegelman’s success, other comics artists have similarly used the medium to engage readers with the Holocaust, but also with the genocides in Armenia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

In my research project, I consider comics as a valuable medium to represent a sensitive topic like genocide and I trace thematic, visual and verbal commonalities in a selection of these graphic novels. In my talk, I will highlight one of the representational strategies employed in these graphic novels by focusing on the recurring visual metaphor of the doll figure. I will demonstrate that, throughout the corpus, these doll metaphors function as stand-in figures and emotive capsules through which we can grasp sensitive elements like violence and trauma. The examples will demonstrate that many of these dolls are positioned as figures that cross the boundaries between inanimate objects and human beings, so that their subsequent mistreatment sends out a clear moral message about right and wrong. The question I would like to address is whether these doll ciphers present an overly simplified and banal visual trope, or whether they provide a productive interaction with the genocide narrative.

 Symposium Representing Genocide.pdf (405.2KB)

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