Research

ON-GOING PROJECTS

Holocaust Memory in the Digital Mediascape

This monograph, written together with Meghan Lundrigan and Erica Fagen, is the first of its kind to analyze the way social media has molded and shaped how people think, represent, and remember the Holocaust. Centered around the five most popular digital platforms in use today: Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, it asks how social technology affects the way history is made and circulated online. Social media has become a place where memories of the Holocaust take shape through user-driven content shared in elaborately interconnected communication networks. Alongside curated exhibits, documentaries, and scholarly research, smartphone photos, short videos, and online texts act as windows into popular consciousness. They document how everyday people make sense of the crime of genocide, presenting unique challenges to historians. Does participatory media create a different understanding of genocide than more traditional forms of writing? How does expertise manifest in the digital public sphere? Do YouTube tourist videos and concentration camp selfies undermine the seriousness of the Holocaust and Holocaust Studies by extension? How does networked memory making affect the kinds of stories told? What evidence is drawn upon to make claims about the past and what mechanisms are used to ensure accuracy and counter hate? How have Holocaust museums responded to both the challenges and opportunities that Web 2.0 provides to broaden their mandate and involve more people in the conscious study of the past? This book provides answers to these questions by analyzing the way vernacular memory around the Holocaust and postwar reckoning and reconciliation is mobilized as well as contested in the digital sphere so as to better equip educational programmers, researchers, and students alike to understand how average individuals think about mid century crimes against humanity and their resonance in the postwar period.

Erotic Photography and the Optics of Desire Before AIDs

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the recognition of photography as a fine art. Galleries began exhibiting photos from new and emerging artists, cultural critics wrote seminal texts about the medium, while art historians debated its relative merits in newly minted journals like October. Art-school students like Robert Mapplethorpe moved away from mixed media and sculpture towards a full-time fascination with image making (Batchen, 1997), and the availability of film stock at affordable prices meant more and more people picked up the camera to document their everyday lives. Alongside these changes in art criticism and curatorial practice, expansive legal reforms were slowing taking root in many national parliaments, radically redefining the role of the state in regulating the sexual behavior of its citizens. Indeed, for a time this spirit of cultural flourishing and social reform even managed to transcend the Iron Curtain, and spread globally in fits and starts thanks to relaxed censorship, a renewed gay and lesbian print culture, and a growing international market in erotica. To date, no single study has attempted to analyze the connections between these changes in cultural criticism, artistic practice, and the so-called Sexual Revolution, the term given to this period of social reform and sexual liberalization. This project will analyze the ways in which the medium of photography helped articulate and give expression to changing visions of sexual expression in this period of greater visibility for queer-identified men and women. Tracing the migration of images and aesthetic styles between and among photographers in Germany, the United States, Israel, Japan, and Argentina, and employing a transnational frame, it will reveal the social as well as aesthetic networks and pathways that linked artists and social groups to this widening, visually mediated, public sphere. With a focus on erotic photography, this study will interrogate the role of image making in the negotiation of queer subjectivity to uncover the way male, female, and trans-identified persons used photography as a form of self-exploration and discovery in this period of intense social and legal change.

Libraries, Sound, and the Performance of Queer Kinship

This SSHRC supported project investigates the history, meaning, and resonance of libraries and collecting to LGBTQI academic and social life in Western Europe and North America. A collaborative project undertaken with audio visual artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, it is focused around the private collections of the first wave of queer-identified scholars who made careers as experts in the field of lesbian and gay history as it became formalized in the 1970s university. It excavates information about these libraries as evidence of queer kinship and community building in an age before gay and lesbian studies was legitimate area of research. It then takes this information – what was collected, how it was ordered, and its meaning for owners and users – and creates an app with sound and narration driven audioguides selections that might be downloaded and used in a variety of settings. Here the goal is to historicize as well as reanimate the multiple meanings and sentiments these libraries evoked as an entry point for today’s audience into this moment in the queer past. In this way, it analyzes the way sound and voice creates opportunities for empathic listening in an affective engagement with history and memory.

The Legacy of Pink Triangle Persecution in Germany

The emphasis on structural inheritance and continuities over the benchmark of 1945 is the subject of my second monograph, The Legacy of Pink Triangle Persecution in Germany which focuses on the regulation of same-sex desire under the Nazis and in East and West Germany. The book analyzes moral regulation in the context of dictatorship, collapse, and reconstruction. It outlines the scope of state intrusion in the private lives of citizens including the gendered matrices at work in identifying transgressors. Most importantly, it uncovers the complex ways in which people sought to mediate their own experiences of repression under dictatorship as well as democracy, forging alliances and maintaining some sense of community in difficult times.