Feb 15th Reading Response-Objects and Nostalgic Practice: Souvenirs/Mementoes/Heirlooms

Posted: February 14, 2012 by jonathansantosdts403diasporiclivesofobjects in Feb 15

“Testimonial Objects: Memory, Gender and Transmission”-Hirsch/Spitzer

This reading examined object’s found in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. Hirsch and Spitzer, the author’s, examined the role these objects played in connecting the present to the past. Within this work, it is evident that both Hirsch and Spitzer interpreted and examined these objects through a feminist perspective as they sought to explain how these “testimonial objects” represented the female gender and the struggles females faced during the Holocaust. Within this reading, the authors examined two books, a book of recipes and a book of pictures.

The book of recipes

This book was made by a group of Jewish women who were living in a WWII concentration camp in Germany. Found within this book were the recipes common to all the women who lived within these camps. This book is important as it is a piece of history that can be used as an account to describe what it meant to be a female living in a concentration camp. This book depicts from the perspective of a woman what it was like to cook during the war with limited resources while being oppressed on a daily basis.

The book of pictures

This book was made up of pictures. This book belonged to a doctor who worked in numerous concentration camps diagnosing patients with food poisoning disease’s.  From the story it is important that we the reader comprehend the true meaning pictures hold. PICTURES TELL A STORY. The authors suggest rather that it is up to us, the audience, to interpret the story.

After examining both books it became apparent that the author’s of both books held on to their respectfull identities regardless of what stood in their path. What I found interesting about this reading was how both books portray a struggle but in two different ways. On the one hand, the book of recipes was written by a female and used to empower the female Diaspora. On the other hand, the book of pictures was written by a male and used as a way to allow his audience to interpret the outcome of his story.

Question: How can pictures be interpreted by everyone?

“(N) Ostalgie” For the Present: Memory, Longing, East German Things”-Berdahl

Unlike Hirsch and Spitzer, Berdahl’s article took a different approach and in my opinion, what she sets out to argue is next to impossible, good luck!

Within this work it is evident that Berdahl’s goal is to differentiate between the notion of nostalgia and the German authorized celebration practices. Within this reading it is apparent that the author is very critical of Western German hegemony as she argued on page 193, “Western German hegemony produces artificial nostalgia when manufacturing and merchandising East German things”. Through examining the replication, commoditization and revitalization of GDR products, Berdahl depicted the alienation process many Eastern Germans faced and still face when thinking about their past. It is evident from this reading that GDR products were used as a part of resistance to the cultural hegemony of the West.

When examining this article I think that Berdahl did a great job on focusing on East German identity and cultural values. Furthermore she did a great job in pointing out how nostalgia is more than longing and reproduction of the past. Rather, she effectively proved that nostalgis is a present cause, a sign of unity and collective memory amongst a group of people working together or with something in common.

I think that both this work and the reading on “testimonial objects” both explored an objects value in a Diasporic context through examining how culture and history can link an object from its past to present form.



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