Institute News

Digital Approaches to Genocide Studies Conference Preview: “Mapping Social Networks and Personal Experiences”

The 1:30-3:30 p.m. panel on the second day of the Digital Approaches to Genocide Studies conference at USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research will gather three scholars who create maps, not of geographic places of genocide, but rather the personal journeys and social networks of survivors as they went on their trajectories through the Holocaust and Cambodian Genocide.

The panel is chaired by Gabor Toth from Yale University. It will be in USC’s Doheny Memorial Library room 240 on Tuesday, Oct. 24. All are welcome to attend.

Paris Papamichos Chronakis, whose research at the University of Illinois, Chicago, generally focuses on Eastern Mediterranean port-cities and their transition from the Ottoman Empire to successor nation-states, will present on the conceptual problems of serial logic and the interview formats of existing audiovisual archives.

He’ll also suggest a novel approach to the audiovisual archive through the digital reconstruction of social networks, allowing archives to move beyond serial logic and begin to present information in a new, more historically faithful and anthropological understanding of the Holocaust survivor as a networked self.

“Things could look very different if one took the social relation a survivor forged as the archive’s organizing unit,” Chronakis said. “How did a prisoner establish contact with his fellow inmates? What were the social bases of trust and the cultural meanings of relatedness? What types of social networks were formed and how interconnected were they? In short – how does sociality work in extreme conditions?”

Andrew Curtis, professor in the Department of Geography at Kent State University, has used testimony to build and map out the narratives of survivors of the Cambodian genocide. “I will be presenting a new method at the conference – a spatial video geo-narrative,” Curtis said. “Briefly, this means a commentary is collected along with spatially enriched video. Using software [my team] has developed, these narratives, once transcribed, can be mapped and analyzed using spatial and non-spatial approaches.”

At the conference, Curtis will demonstrate his method of mapping using the initial evacuation of Phnom Penh during the Cambodian genocide – but he says the method can be applied in other genocide investigations as well.

“This is the first time that these routes have been mapped, but more importantly, the routes will be contextualized by what happened at specific locations on these forced marches,” Curtis said.

Finally, by crossing administrative files like rental agreements with both the archives of the racial persecution of the time and the ones of ordinary urban life, Eric Le Bourhis and his research team at the Institute for Political Sciences, Nanterre (France) have been able to study the local dynamics of the Holocaust in Paris, looking at the relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish populations and the spatial presence of Parisian Jews in 1942.

For Bourhis and his team, their research has only proven that the spatialization of the past is a powerful tool for the curation and transmission of the social history of the Holocaust. Thus far, it has given birth to a digital sound-walk called People of the Holocaust, currently under production to tell the stories of former inhabitants of homes from their perspectives in the places the events took place.