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Lives of a Memory: Selma Meerbaum Eisinger and the Politics of Remembrance

Lives of a Memory: Selma Meerbaum Eisinger and the Politics of Remembrance
AA160 UTSC, 1265 Military Trail Scarborough
Time: Mar 15th, 5:00 pm End: Mar 15th, 7:00 pm
Interest Categories: Women & Gender Studies (FAS), Sociology (FAS), Psychoanalytic, Philosophy (UTSC), Jewish Studies, History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), German (FAS), English (UTSC), Anthropology (UTM), Anthropology (FAS), 1950-2000, 1900-1950
Lecture by Irene Silverblatt

Prof. Irene M. Silverblatt (Duke University)

Lives of a Memory: Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger and the Politics of Remembrance


Sponsored by the UTSC Centre for Ethnography and the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic) and Dean, UTSC

5:00-7:00pm, UTSC AA 160. To be followed by a reception in BV 380, the Ralph Campbell Lounge.

Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, an eighteen year old, German-speaking poet, died in an SS labor camp in 1942. She left behind a hand-written album of 57 poems that miraculously survived the war. Selma was from Czernowitz, a border town under four regimes during the twentieth century (Austro-Hungary, Romania, Soviet Union, Ukraine) and is known for its poets and writers as well as for its “multicultural” ethos. Although Selma’s poetry had its first commercial publication in Hamburg thirty years ago, over the last seven years her poems have captured the imaginations of German and Austrian playwrights, pop stars, professors and activists. The talk, part of an ongoing and evolving project, explores the tangled politics of memory through the lens of this resurging interest in Selma Meerbaum’s life and poetry.

This is a project about memory-work, the social practices that make the past into a vital part of the present. It connects broad debates over how to – or whether to –publicly represent, atone for, or bury one of the modern world’s most horrifying episodes with current frictions over nationhood, moral obligations, and political vision. With Selma Meerbaum as a fulcrum, bitter disputes over national definitions and visions, over historical responsibilities, over history’s owners and inheritors, over the very structures, silences and significance of history come into view. Lives of a Memory, then, is also a study of political morality and hope: a public, aesthetic negotiation of life’s possibilities.

Irene Silverblatt is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and History at Duke University. Her publications include Harvest of Blossoms: Poetry of a Life Cut Short (Collected Poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger) (edited and with an introduction by Irene Silverblatt and Helene Silverblatt 2008); Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World (2004); Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru (1987).

Download event poster [pdf]

Professor Silverblatt will also be speaking on 16 March. Click here for details.


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