“Memory is the Future”—a Davidson History Journal special issue—explores the interdisciplinary field of memory studies. The Memory Studies Association defines the field as an examination of “the social, cultural, cognitive, political and technological shifts affecting how, what and why individuals, groups and societies remember, and forget.” This comma-filled description of memory studies speaks to the versatility and various aims of the field. The student writers featured in this issue exemplify this wide scope. They investigate histories of Europe, America, Africa, and Davidson College through the forms of traditional essays, a documentary film, a short story, and a board game proposal.
The title “Memory is the Future” reflects the utility of memory studies in academia and everyday life. How might memory studies’ engagement with the past and interrogation of remembrance work to resolve immemorial injustices? The student writers of this issue illuminate the personal, ugly, and inspiring ways individuals and communities engage with the past. Studying not just the accuracy of the past but also the messy reality of remembrance enables a better understanding of our present historical moment and perhaps a better vision of the future. — Taylor Drake ’21
A special thank you to Isabel Padalecki, Taylor Drake, and Michael Krasuski for their leadership and hard work in editing this issue.
Who Will Be the “Legendary” Jewish Socialist? by Julia Bainum, Erin Krull, Isabel Padalecki, and Maria Vazquez Martinez
This paper seeks to investigate the role of play and group education within broader goals of historical memory. In particular, this project seeks to understand how Jewish history can be memorialized through a board game, taking the form of a game proposal made to an imagined group of investors interested in teaching a younger, school-aged audience about important aspects of Jewish history. Our board game proposal, “Who Will Be The “Legendary” Jewish Socialist,” utilizes primary sources such as the memoir of prominent Bundist and Jewish Socialist Vladimir Medem to create a game-experience that teaches players about Jewish socialism at the turn of the nineteenth century as well as broader themes in European Jewish life within this historical moment.
Paul Robeson and Itzik Feffer: A Story of Betrayal and Compromise by Blake Botelho
This paper examines Paul Robeson’s complicated legacy, focusing on his relationship with Judaism. As a polyglot, Robeson learned many languages, including Yiddish. Through his Yiddish studies and advocacy for the oppressed, Robeson gained an appreciation for Jewish culture, as well as the adversity faced by Jews. He also formed close relationships with Jewish people, most notably Itzik Feffer. However, despite his friendship, Robeson failed to condemn the Soviet Union’s persecution of Jewish intellectuals even when they targeted Itzik Feffer. This paper discusses the motives driving Robeson’s decision not to speak up.
This paper evaluates the language in newspaper accounts and in several of Dr. Albert Kligman’s published medical journal articles written on experiments he conducted at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1951 and 1974. I argue that his experiments were widely accepted and praised by both the media and the medical establishment and that Kligman’s reputation made him a popular figure professionally and publicly.
This piece is an excerpt from my Russian Literature thesis, “‘A Post-Soviet Paradigm of the Siege of Leningrad” in Lydia Ginzburg’s A Story of Pity and Cruelty.” I give a brief introduction to the history of the Siege, including the events that unfolded and narratives that were written out of the experience. Upon juxtaposing two sides–Soviet state media and uncensored individual writing–I ascertain the role of “Siege Literature” in our remembrance of the event today.
During the late 19th century, world’s fairs emerged as key centers of cultural expression. Many of the cultural exhibits at world’s fairs were geared towards entertainment, sometimes presenting a caricature of the culture that they claimed to accurately depict. The Cairo Street exhibit of the 1889, 1893, and 1904 world’s fairs presented Egyptian society as markedly exotic and un-modern to its Western audience. Everything from the wooden balconies to the Egyptian belly dancers served to portray Egypt in an Orientalist light. Through the Cairo Street exhibit, the “otherness” of Egypt was put on the world stage during an age of heightened nationalism and Western colonialism.
Emerging from the intersection of anthropology, performance studies, and documentary analysis, this piece investigates case studies of racial performance at Davidson College during the 19th and 20th centuries. Drawing from scholars like Lott (1992), Schneider (2001), Johnson (2003), and Young (2010), it examines how the enactment of Blackface, Redface, and other racist stereotypes became part of the college’s White Supremacist culture(s), and considers how the content, increasing scale, and growing popularity of these performances were instrumental in establishing Davidson’s local and regional reputation. This essay emphasizes the importance of bodily enactment, White fetishization and caricaturizing of the racialized “other,” and their effects on community and institutional memory in order to understand whose experiences are often purposely erased or hidden and whose are committed to the college’s historical record. The paper seeks to contribute to a larger body of community work across and beyond Davidson that speaks against our Whitewashed collective memory and investigates a variety of measures that honor and affirm the experiences of Black and Indigenous people harmed and misrepresented by the college.
In the spring of my freshman year at Davidson, I took a Writing 101 class that focused on the concept of Holocaust denial. The class, taught by Dr. Ilana McQuinn, centered around historian Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and the subsequent libel trial between Holocaust denier David Irving and Penguin Books Ltd. On a broader scale, the course dealt with larger questions of historical memory and how to appropriately address historical violence and guilt. In this particular paper, I compare and contrast the different laws surrounding Holocaust denial in both Germany and Poland. The paper also attempts to show how Holocaust denial represents a larger threat to our society’s true collective memory of history.
Dodendraad by Fiona Stanton
This story imagines the psychological ramifications of “The Rape of Belgium,” a period during WW1 which saw Belgium violently occupied and its citizens mistreated. Executions, rape, and arson were frequent occurences, and the story’s title, Dodendraad, is taken from the Dutch term for the lethal electric fence—erected by the German army—which trapped the Belgian people within hostile territory. The narrator of this story is a fictional character, but represents a small percentage of half-German, half-Belgian children conceived in rape—a unique subset acting as an unwilling, biological representation of the brutal nature of Germany’s occupation. Through this lens, Dodendraad considers the nature of inherited trauma, and how memory can affect our perception of events as well as individuals.
The Apology by Dr. John Wertheimer, Luke Gloeckner, Ed Foster, and the class of HIS 454 (Julia Bainum, Patrick Casey, Laura Collins, Caroline Macaulay, Tommy May, Meghan Rankins, Seth Rinkevich, Jack Sheehy, Marcus Whipple)
With the Charleston City Council’s vote in 2018 to apologize for the city’s role in the transatlantic slave trade as its starting point, this documentary film explores Charleston’s historical memory throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.