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SCHOOL PHOTOS AND THEIR AFTERLIVES: A Comparative Jewish Perspective (Lecture 1)

Profs. Marianne Hirsch (Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University) and Leo Spitzer (Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor of History, Dartmouth College)

Monday, March 31, 2014 - 7:30pm
220 Kane Hall
SCHOOL PHOTOS AND THEIR AFTERLIVES: A Comparative Jewish Perspective
Lecture 1: School Photos in the Era of Assimilation: Jews, Indians and Blacks
Lecture 2: FRAMING CHILDREN: The Holocaust and After
Profs. Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer
Photographs of school classes appear very early in the history of photography and are pervasive in individual and family albums throughout the world.  Potent media for recall and memorialization, they reveal as well as conceal the practices of assimilation and nationalization inherent in schooling.  Our two lectures examine the historical, memorial, and aesthetic dimensions of school photographs from a comparative Jewish perspective.  They analyze both historical images and critical re-framings by contemporary artists who expose photography’s ideological role within a political climate shifting from emancipation and integration to exclusion, persecution and genocide.

The first lecture, focusing on class images from the 19th and early 20th century, examines practices of assimilation that are revealed in photographs from educational establishments intended for the “civilization” of indigenous and African American children in North America and from schools attended by Jewish children in Habsburg-ruled Central Europe.  The second lecture looks at the process of exclusion of Jews in 20th century Central Europe by way of school pictures taken in the 1920’s and 30s as well as in sanctioned and clandestine schools – some, in ghettos and camps – in the years of the Holocaust.  Reflecting on the afterlives of these images in memorial and artistic installations, our talks aim to expose the powerful integrative force of school photos, their compelling affective resonances, and the possibilities of resistance and subversion toward which they gesture. 

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