Visiting Scholars Spend Summer Exploring the Visual History Archive

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 3:14pm

This summer, the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research is hosting three visiting scholars, who have traveled from across the country to conduct research in the Visual History Archive and consult with the staff and other researchers at the Center, as well as staff as across the Institute. Undergraduate studentss Lindsay Klickstein and Gregory Kleinman are conducting research in the archive with grants from their home universities, while professor Aria Razfar is visiting the Shoah Foundation to work with both the Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the Education team.

Aria Razfar, a professor of Education and Linguistics at University of Illinois at Chicago, is co-hosted by the Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the USC Shoah Foundation Education department. Professor Razfar focuses on the intersection of applied linguistics, education and learning sciences, and is interested in the relevance of linguistics to spiritual texts and identities. He will be in residence at the Center for two months beginning in June, and will use his time in the archive to investigate the ways in which the Yiddish language was marginalized in schools and broader society in pre-World War II Germany and Poland. 

Professor Razfar is particularly interested in the links between language, identity and social status, and in the implications of his research for the marginalization of other “non-standard” languages. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, Professor Razfar is the director of Project LSciMAct, the Transforming Literacy, Science, and Math through Action Research Project sponsored by the Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition. During his time at the USC Shoah Foundation, Professor Razfar will also work with the Education team to help develop several educational resources for publication on the Shoah Foundation’s free educational portal, IWitness. Based on his current research in the VHA, he plans to develop resources that address medical ethics and the Holocaust and the rejection of or de-legitimization of language as a form of dehumanization.  

Lindsay Klickstein, a junior in History and Jewish Studies at Williams College, will be visiting the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research for a month in order to conduct research on how survivor testimony detailing Polish-Jewish relations before, during and after the Holocaust has changed since 1946. Klickstein plans to use the material she finds in the Visual History Archive as the basis for her senior thesis project.

Klickstein is particularly interested in the divide between what she calls the “global memory” of the Holocaust and Polish memory, which she argues was created by the Communist regime in the aftermath of the war. She is interested in the ways in which both collective memory and individual understanding of the Holocaust have changed over time, and in how Jewish perceptions of Polish-Jewish relations are reflected in testimony in the Visual History Archive. She has chosen to conduct her research at the Center because, in her words, “while many programs have Holocaust testimony databases, the Center has one of the most organized and easily-searchable [indexes]. I'm looking for as many interviews that touch on Polish-Jewish relations as possible, and the Center has the best resources for such breadth by far.” Klickstein hopes that this research project will inform the current scholarly debate on Poland’s relationship with the past and contemporary Polish politics. 

Gregory Kleinman, a sophomore at Occidental College studying Economics and History, is visiting the Center for two months in order to conduct research on Holocaust survivors’ transition to 1950s America. He is interested in how the culture of 1950s America – which he argues was marked by “fear of communism, extreme conformity and societal obedience” -- impacted migratory Holocaust survivors’ transition to postwar life. Kleinman hopes that insight into how Holocaust survivors transitioned to life as immigrants in America can aid in understanding “the best ways in which to be in solidarity with and support immigrants in their transition into and adaptation to their new country’s culture and society.” 

Kleinman will utilize both primary and secondary sources in his research, including survivor testimonies in the Visual History Archive, memoirs from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and accounts of Holocaust survivors’ life in 1950s America. If possible, he also hopes to interview a survivor directly. Kleinman’s research will culminate in a research paper and presentation.