Past Programs & Events

Oct 5, 2016

The Making of the Secular Witness: From David Rousset to the "Survivor"

This talk will explore one chapter in the history of a particular concept of humanity forged in suffering and survival, symbolized by the secular witness.  It discusses the defamation trial of French writer David Rousset (author of "The Concentrationary Universe," or "L'Univers concentrationnaire), which became shorthand for camp life in the decade after the Second World War.  It addresses how he used the trial to generate a victim-centered testimonial practice only fully developed after the Eichmann trial.  The paper will summarize the features and history of the survivor icon conceived as part of the historical development of contemporary moral culture.


Carolyn J. Dean is Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French at Yale University and the author of five books, most recently Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust (Cornell, 2010).

Sep 21, 2016

Defined Out of Existence: The U.S. Government's Continuing Attempt to Remove and Replace American Indians

From first contact, those who arrived in what is now known as the United States have used diverse methods to decrease the number of peoples indigenous to the land. First, physical elimination via war and smallpox was the most expedient method. After the formation of the U.S. government, federal policies were enacted to eliminate American Indians using more politically correct means. The policies varied in name and effectiveness and included removal, relocation, assimilation, reservations, and more. Today's policy era is known as Self-Determination, but in reality entails the U.S. government’s determination of the definitions of "Indian" and "tribe." This is the modern, most politically correct means of decreasing the number of Indigenous peoples who remain on this land. Sadly, it has been quite effective; it reminds us that nothing has changed since 1492 and that the desire to remove and replace American Indians from this land still persists.


Kathleen Brown-Perez is a Senior Lecturer in the Honors College at UMass Amherst. Among other courses, she teaches federal Indian law and policy as well as Criminal Law, which includes a section on criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Kathleen is a graduate of the University of Iowa, having received her MBA and JD there. She joined the faculty in Commonwealth Honors College after working as a corporate lawyer in Boston. She now limits her practice to federal Indian law, providing consultation services to law firms suing the U.S. government on behalf of tribes. Kathleen is an enrolled member of the Eeyam Quittoowauconuck (Brothertown Indian Nation, Wisconsin). Her publications include books and articles on federal Indian law, administrative law, and labor/employment law. In addition to writing, she has extensive editing experience, having served on the inaugural editorial board of the Native American and Indigenous Studies journal.


Jul 29, 2016

New England Holocaust Educators Network Satellite Seminar

Please e-mail for more information.  

Mar 21, 2016

How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel

Although Jews were only 3.5 percent of the American population in the 1950s, in their war literature they created the template through which Americans saw World War II.  For instance, nearly all of the bestselling American war novels between 1948 and 1961 were by or about Jewish soldiers. In Jewish authored works, members of this statistically marginal population therefore became the principle figures through which the story of World War II was told. Yet the central role of Jews in fictionalizing War World II for a postwar readership has gone unnoticed in literary and historical studies. Either the Jewishness of the writers is uncommented on, or, the Jewishness of the text is negated. This factor is central, because as I will discuss, Jewish authors wrote about the war in very unique ways, and since their novels were bestsellers, they had a direct impact upon how postwar Americans understood the war effort. Revisiting best-selling works ranging from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and uncovering a range of unknown archival material, I will show how Jewish writers used the theme of World War II to reshape the American public’s ideas about war, the Holocaust, and the role of Jews in postwar life. In contrast to most previous war fiction these new “Jewish” war novels were often ironic, funny, and irreverent and sought to teach the reading public broader lessons about liberalism, masculinity, and pluralism.

About the Speaker

LEAH GARRETT is Loti Smorgon Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture at Monash University in Australia. She has published four books and numerous articles on Jewish literature. Garrett's scholarship has been devoted to understanding how Jewish authors in an array of languages used their literary discourse to enact, reimagine, and subvert conventional ideas about the relationship between Jews and the modern world. This talk is based on her recent book that was shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award: Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel (

Oct 20, 2015

Under Strange Skies

Discussion with filmmaker Daniel Blaufuks

Daniel Blaufuks, born in Lisbon, 1963, is a Portuguese photographer, the grandson of Polish and German Ashkenazi Jews who moved to Portugal in the late 1920s and 1930s. He moved to Germany in 1976 and returned to Portugal in 1983. In 1991, Daniel Blaufuks published, with Paul Bowles, My Tangier, and in 1994, the London Diaries, followed by Ein Tag in Mostar (1995) and Uma Viagem a S. Petersburgo (1998). At one time or another, he lived in England and the United States and traveled in Europe, India, Russia, Africa and South America.

As well as producing many exhibitions, Daniel Blaufuks directed several films and videos: Life is not a picnic (1998, a film without a story), Black and White (2000, the story of a girl who becomes color-blind), Under Strange Skies (2002, a documentary on the Jewish refugees in Lisbon during and after the Second World War), Reversed Landscapes (2002, a film on Portuguese architecture), and Slightly Smaller than Indiana (2006, a documentary about contemporary Portugal).