Students on a theater trip in Iceland.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

Acts of Witnessing on Film

Monday, June 17, 2024 - 09:00 to Tuesday, June 18, 2024 - 18:00

The definitions, uses, policies, and norms of testimony continue to be debated, with discussions fueled by a large scientific literature; works of philosophy and aesthetics (Frosch, & Pinchewski, 2009, Goutte, 2016, El Madawi, 2020, Détue, 2022) explore the relationship between filmed oral testimonies and historical facts, the narrative processes created by this medium in the Era of the Witness, the contours of truly cinematic testimonies, and even of testimony as a new documentary form (Leimbacher, 2014, Katz, 2018). At the intersection of Trauma Studies, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Memory and Media Studies, scholars have conducted research into audiovisual productions about the Holocaust as well as repressions in Latin America, the Middle-East, North Africa, and Asia (cf. the selected bibliography). These works are characterized by a constructivist perspective and an interest in the role of documentary filmmakers in the writing of history.

Alongside Luba Jurgenson (Sorbonne Universite) and Irina Tcherneva (CNRS), the Schaeffer Center has organized a conference that reflects through a historical perspective on the act of witnessing on film. Beyond “testimonial” cinema (Garibotto, 2019), we hope to approach testimonies as a practice, shaped by the specific environments of their national cinematographic cultures. How are enunciative devices reconfigured through the technical and institutional mediations inherent to the production of knowledge? How can we address the social and political stakes of archiving at the time of creation (omissions, negotiations, political pressures...)? Which epistemological approaches can be used to analyze testimonial functions assigned after the fact (such as previous footage reassigned for other purposes and uses witness retractions regarding propaganda)? 

This conference is situated at the intersection of the history of cinema and a reflection on the act of witnessing that considers the social history of mass violence and the history of the end of dictatorships. We hope that it will be multidisciplinary and will foster connections between various cultural areas of research. We welcome proposals in French or English from a diversity of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

More information will be shared as the event approaches, such as exact location and time.

Download the Call for Papers here



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