Featured Guest Lecture by Debarati Sanyal

Thursday, 21 March 2013 • 4-5p.m. (reception begins at 3:30 p.m.)
Glasscock Center Library, Room 311, Glasscock Building
The lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Associate Professor, Department of French, University of California, Berkeley
“Holocaust Memory and the War on Terror: The Case of Boualem Sansal”

Debarati Sanyal is an Associate Professor of French at the University of California, Berkeley, and has been a member of the Invited Faculty of L’institut d’études françaises d’Avignon for Bryn Mawr College. She is author of The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) and Special Editor of Noeuds de mémoire: Multidirectional Memory in Postwar French and Francophone Culture (Yale French Studies 118/119, Nov 2010). She is also the author of several articles and book chapters on French literature and culture, including “Auschwitz as Allegory in Night and Fog” in Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’ (ed. Griselda Pollock and Max Silverman, Bergahn Books, 2011), which was awarded the Krazna-Krausz Prize for Best Book on the Moving Image 2011. She is scheduled to complete her most recent work, Dangerous Intersections: Complicity and Holocaust Memory in Postwar France, this May.

France is notorious for the fixity of its preoccupation with World War II and the Holocaust. Recent French-speaking cultural production suggests the emergence of comparative approaches to Holocaust memory, but also a renewed interest in the figure of the perpetrator, as well as in vectors of complicity. Novels and films such as The Kindly Ones (2006), The Last Brother (2007) or Heartbeat Detector (2007) signal a shift away from discourses on the singular, incomparable and unpresentable nature of Holocaust and speak to a growing tendency to approach this event from a plurality of perspectives, in ways that bind its legacy to other histories, and animates current political engagements.

Algerian writer Boualem Sansal’s Le Village de l’Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller (2008) engages Holocaust memory from an Algerian perspective, weaving together the Nazi genocide, the Algerian civil war and global circuits of terrorism, while drawing polemical analogies between the concentration camps and the French banlieue, as well as Nazism and fundamentalist Islam. My talk will contextualize this novel within the recent theoretical turn to transcultural memory, while assessing its politics within the memory wars in France (between the Shoah, slavery and colonialism), and in light of the “war on terror”. I will also address American and French debates on repentance, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, in an attempt to situate Sansal’s polemical work within a transnational reflection on terror as well as on the politics and ethics of Holocaust memory today.

Lecture supported in part by the France/Texas A&M University Institute (Centre Pluridisciplinaire).