How Do you Repair a Broken World? Conflict(ing) Archives after the Holocaust

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In contrast to the portrayal of archives as neutral sites that contain evidence of times past, this paper examines the construction of three archives during and after the Holocaust to highlight the challenges involved in gathering, preserving, and sharing documents produced by victimized populations. Specifically, I analyze the construction of, and conflicts among, the archives of the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, and the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Each archive purports to contain the history of Jews in France during the Holocaust and strived in its aftermath not only to gather the remnants of European Jewish history but to reconstitute it, leading to contestations over what it meant to be Jewish in turn. Through analysis of the conflicts among these three archives, I show how debates over the possession of documents after genocide became symbolic debates about Jewish history and identity that would shape each of these archives for generations to come. I generalize from the example to discuss the practical implications of working with conflicting archives and examine the broader lessons for social scientists who wish to give “voice to the voiceless” by working with documents produced by victimized populations.

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Luft, A. (2020). How Do you Repair a Broken World? Conflict(ing) Archives after the Holocaust. Qualitative Sociology, 43(3), 317–343.

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