Michael Rothberg

Michael Rothberg – a literary critic and memory studies scholar, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

His research interests include Holocaust studies, trauma and memory studies, critical theory and cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and contemporary literature. Rothberg has published widely on Holocaust memory and literature, and his books include The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (Stanford University Press, 2019), Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford University Press, 2009), and Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (University of Minnesota Press, 2000). 

Together with Yasemin Yildiz, he is currently at work on a book about the intersections between migration, citizenship, and confrontation with National Socialism and the Holocaust in contemporary Germany. Rothberg's well-known book Multidirectional Memory (2009) explores the intersections between Holocaust memory and postcolonial studies by drawing on a diverse selection of writers and thinkers including Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Delbo, W.E.B. Du Bois, Caryl Phillips, and Aimé Césaire, among others. His book aims to find an alternative approach to competitive models of collective memory where the memories of different societies and events tend to crowd one another out in a "zero-sum struggle over scarce resources" (Rothberg 2009, 3). Skillfully analyzing literary and theoretical works about the Holocaust, the Algerian War, and the African American experience in the United States, Rothberg argues that while the Holocaust has been seen as a "unique" event which should be compared to other histories of oppression and victimization, it has nevertheless played a significant role in enabling the expression of these histories. Overall, he rejects the notion of the competitive model of memory, and instead claims that memories of one event can increase public understanding of other, more remote ones, and can be used as a productive tool for addressing legacies of injustice across different time periods, societies, and cultures. His book sheds light on and provides relevant guidance regarding conflicts over historical comparison and their relationship to ongoing movements for civil rights and decolonization in many parts of the world.

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