It seems, indeed, that the far right party in France is leading. The National Front (abbreviated “FN” for Front National in French) could possibly win the election after having lost in 2002 to Jacques Chirac. This is due to the fact that, in the last 15 years, France has become more conservative and protectionist, intensified by issues such as the migrant crisis and several terrorist attacks on French soil.
We have grown accustomed to seeing photographs captured during conflict dehumanizing victims and fetishizing their suffering. Our Eye on Africa column has previously discussed the disproportionate ways in which the pain of non-western victims is consumed through the media, even though it does not educate us about the context leading to the suffering. Yet, other forms of war-photography capture something else: everyday life under conflict. Instead of focusing on the pain and suffering of victims, these photographs aim to highlight the continuity of life. They focus on the possibility of a future and the necessity to maintain a sense of self. Conflict and suffering can in fact be captured in ways that do not always freeze moments of agony and death in eternity.
“Nasty, brutish, and short.”
In a recent lecture by Ambassador Stephen Rapp, hosted by the Human Rights Program, he borrowed from Thomas Hobbes’ famous line to describe life in a world without justice. His presentation kicked off a lecture series about the ongoing Syrian crisis.
Saying that Ambassador Rapp has an extensive resume is an understatement: he served as Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes in the Office of Global Criminal Justice, a position which brought him around the globe to address a wide span of conflicts during his 2009-2015 term. His legal experience includes positions in the International Criminal Court and the International Tribunal for Rwanda, where he helped prosecute the first conviction for a member of the media in inciting genocide. Currently, he holds positions with the Hague Institute for Global Justice and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
In our post on the photography of Maxine Rude – on display in the Eiger-Zaidenweber Holocaust Resource Center at the Sabes JCC – we touched on issues involved in exhibiting these photographs, including that a photographer’s choices on how to present a subject (framing, selecting, and excluding subjects) may influence a viewer’s perception.
A curator also makes influential choices, deciding how and what to include in an exhibit, and what to exclude. In putting pieces of art or photography together, these works may take on new and unexpected meanings in a visitor’s mind that were never intended by artist or curator, but are a result of the exhibition nonetheless. Or, a curator may intentionally be drawing comparisons that were not in the original artist’s mind.
In presenting Maxine Rude’s work, we take note of her portrayal of children and families, asking questions of the viewer about their response to seeing these victims of World War II and the Holocaust.
Racism comes in many forms. Some strains mask themselves in institutional legitimacy and free speech. Others advance claims of victimhood, loss of religious freedom, or champion assertions that they are defenders of local custom and tradition. Regardless of its shape, however, racism is always the product of two forces: ignorance and malevolence. Racism is perpetually ignorant because it relies on ahistorical constructions of difference to advance universal assertions of racial, cultural, social, or national superiority. In this manner, racism is also always malevolent because it seeks to impose hierarchical configurations of ‘race’ in an otherwise multicultural, multiethnic world.
If you’ve been to St. Paul lately, you’ve likely seen that the Minnesota Capitol Building is undergoing a massive renovation. More than $300 million is being spent to make the century-plus building a host of structural and technological upgrades. Once completed in the fall, a nearly two year-long project will come to an end.
However, it is not the building itself that’s been grabbing headlines. Instead, it’s the art inside – art that’s been estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion. Many of these pieces depict key moments in the state’s history: Among them the landing of Father Hennepin and the gallantry of the 2nd Minnesota Company from the American Civil war. One piece that will not be on display when the Capitol reopens is a 1906 work by Anton Gag. It shows the attack on New Ulm by Dakota warriors during the short-lived 1862 conflict.
The Minnesota State Capitol, not unlike other political spaces around the world, displays artwork meant to illustrate important moments in the history of the state. Of these, a number of paintings have created significant debate among politicians and community members.
Nearly a decade after the contentious Dakota War of 1862, an oil painting depicting Dakota warriors attacking white German settlers in New Ulm has, until this year, hung on the walls of the Minnesota State Capitol. The artist, Anton Gag, created “Attack on New Ulm” nearly forty years after the event. On January 26th, 1887, The New Ulm Review reported that, “Mr. Gag’s undertaking is commendable and every one interested in the history of the dark days of New Ulm should aid him.”
The lifeless body of a 16-month old Rohingya boy, Mohammed Shohayet, was found laying face down on the bank of River Naf at the Bangladesh-Burma border. Although reminiscent of the photograph of Kurdish-Syrian Alan Kurdi, neither this photograph nor the conflict in Burma have received nearly as much attention as the crisis in Syria. Of course, although coverage is important, it has not necessitated action in either conflict.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Burma (also known as Myanmar), mainly residing in the Rakhina State. While the conflict in Burma has not yet been declared a genocide, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) compiled a report last May on the early warning signs of genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide found evidence of a variety of key warning signs, including physical segregation of the population, restrictions on both marriages and births, constraints on movement, and physical violence. And since the release of this report, additional and increasing troubling information has continued to flow from the nation, with the most recent report by the United Nations documenting crimes against humanity. Media organizations have had limited access to the Rakhine state as the government continues its propaganda campaign, but recently leaked footage captured police officers attacking a group of Rohingya men. The government later arrested the officers and stated that the beating was an isolated incident, while claiming similar footage from the previous month was faked. As a result of the conflict, tens of thousands of Rohingya are displaced and have tried fleeing to neighboring countries on boats, only to be rejected.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day Trump’s White House issued a statement condemning Nazi terror and resolving to prevent generalized atrocities in the future. The statement, however, did not mention Jews or antisemitism. This omission raised eyebrows. Upon questioning, a spokeswoman for Trump’s administration cited inclusivity of and sensitivity to all of the groups that perished under Nazi brutality as the cause for ambiguity in the aforementioned statement. The spokeswoman directed attention to an article that discussed the killing of six million Jews as well as the killing of “priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters” under the Nazi regime.
While these groups were Nazi targets, no group was targeted as indiscriminately as the Jews. Antisemitism produced a unique brand of blind hatred. At the Holocaust Remembrance Day event held on January 26th in the Twin Cities, Patrick Desbois – a French Catholic priest known for his work identifying sites of genocidal violence and author of The Holocaust by Bullets – explained that Jewishness was a source of unequivocal condemnation. “Never was there a Jewish child too young or a Jewish woman too old for the Nazis to destroy,” he said.
“The irony in this is that this is a country that people are fleeing to…[but it’s] becoming one of tyranny, is becoming one of dictatorship and is becoming one that’s turning its face against the values that it’s supposed to stand for.” – Ilhan Omar
An executive order signed on January 27th, ominously falling on Holocaust Remembrance Day, enacts a series of changes impacting people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. The Twin Cities, home to the largest Somali community in the US, is heavily struck. In just the last three months of 2016, 433 Somali refugees were resettled in Minnesota contributing to a total of approximately 77, 000 Somalis in the Twin Cities. Almost two-decades of civil war has resulted in one of the largest displacement crises, with almost 1 million registered as refugees, and another 1.1 million displaced within Somalia.