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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: The Era of the Witness: Trauma in Contemporary History (HIST10444)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThis course considers the era of the witness by examining the testimony of trauma survivors and its impact on contemporary history, historiography, and collective memory. 'Bearing witness' as practice, and by extension the application of survivor testimony to historical methodology, has shaped the way in which genocide is perceived, assessed and remembered. This course provides an historical overview of these complex relationships by discussing the links between trauma, memory and history through the case studies of the Holocaust, Cambodia, the Bosnian war, and Rwanda.
Course description After decades of recorded Holocaust survivor testimony, historians in the 1990s began to use these oral sources in conjunction with more traditional documents to construct a complex picture of not only the Holocaust but other sites of recent trauma. This change in approach was both exacerbated and facilitated by events unfolding in the 1990s, including conflict in Bosnia and Rwanda. But what does this process mean for historical investigations of genocidal events? And for those who survived these genocides? And how are traumatic events remembered locally, nationally, transnationally, and even beyond these boundaries? And what does it mean to 'bear witness'? The course will address these questions from an inter-disciplinary perspective with a focus on contemporary history. The first part of the course discusses the intersections of memory and genocide, while providing the necessary theoretical background for engaging with these topics. The focus then shifts to examining a series of case-studies: The Holocaust, Cambodia, former Yugoslavia (Bosnia), and Rwanda.

The application of testimony to history has since had a significant impact on the way in which genocide is not only written about but also remembered. The second part of the course will therefore explore this trauma memory through oral history, texts, memorials, and other various sources related to the case studies mentioned above with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of how survivor testimony impacts the historiography of traumatic events. Following from this, the concluding segment focuses on the intersections of bearing witness, history and collective memory by examining commemoration and representation of trauma with reference to the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination, an understanding of the concepts of trauma and bearing witness from different disciplinary perspectives;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework, the ability to work with a group on a presentation which reflects an aspect of the course in a critical manner;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination, an understanding of genocide, its varying interpretations and its impact on modern history through successfully analysing secondary literature;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination, an awareness of the challenges inherent in writing the history of mass trauma while considering survivor testimony;
  5. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination, a fundamental grasp of the significance of collective memory, commemoration and reconciliation in developing a more complex understanding of genocide.
Reading List
K.N. McDaniel. Virtual Dark Tourism: Ghost Roads. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

B. Kiernan. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. Yale UP, 2007.

D. Bloxham and A. Dirk Moses, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies. Oxford UP, 2010.

P. Cieplak. Death, Image, Memory: The Genocide in Rwanda and its Aftermath in Photography and Documentary Film. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

R. Gelatelly and B. Kiernan, editors. The Spectre of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective. Cambridge UP, 2003.

A. Stein. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014.

D.A. Ritchie, editor. The Oxford Handbook of Oral History. Oxford UP, 2011.

M. Hirsch. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. Columbia UP, 2012.

C. Caruth. Unclaimed Experience. Trauma, Narrative, and History. Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.

J. Amery. At the Mind's Limits. Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities. Indiana UP (reprint), 1980.

M. Halbwachs. On Collective Memory. University of Chicago Press, 1992.

J.K. Olick, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi and Daniel Levy, editors. The Collective Memory Reader. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tereza Eva Valny
Tel: (0131 6)50 2504
Course secretaryMs Jenni Vento
Tel: (0131 6)50 3781
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