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Simon Wiesenthal Lecture
Lea David: A Shoe, a Broken Watch and Marbles – How Objects Shape our Memory and our Future

Thursday, 28. April 2022, 18:30 - 20:00

Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien (VWI) 1010 Wien, Rabensteig 3, Research Lounge


Personal items of the missing/killed found at the sites of mass atrocities are often understood as the last tangible link with the absent person. I call such objects ‘Desire Objects’ (DOs) - not in the sense of commodities, where a desire to acquire objects stands against the ability to purchase - but because those objects instigate emotional responses that reflect different sorts of desires regarding the loved ones: that they might come back from the dead; that their memory may be prolonged in the face of their unjust death; that some sense can be made of it, and that we may come to peace with their violent passing. The logic of how and why the DOs are kept privately or donated, then preserved individually or publicly, collected, displayed, left to decay or destroyed, or, in fact, transformed into political symbols, is often obscured or taken for granted. The research asks why a muddy shoe or a child’s marble, recovered from the sites of atrocities, are different from any other muddy shoe or child’s marble.

Lea David is an Assistant Professor at the School of Sociology, University College Dublin. Her research interests cover memory, nationalism, human rights, the intersection between the Holocaust and genocide, and conflicts in the former Yugoslav countries and in Israel/Palestine. Previously, David held several postdoctoral fellowships including the Fulbright and the Mare Curie. She has published in English, Hebrew, and Serbo-Croatian. Her book The Past Can’t Heal Us: The Dangers of Mandating Memory in the Name of Human Rights was published in 2020 with Cambridge University Press and was awarded the Honourable Mention for the 2021 ASA Sociology of Human Rights Gordon Hirabayashi Award.

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SWL82 David

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