From the Transnational to the Intimate: Multidirectional Memory, the Holocaust and Colonial Violence in Australia and Beyond

  • Rosanne KennedyEmail author
  • Sulamith Graefenstein


In Australia, public remembrance, particularly relating to national identity and colonial violence, has been contentious. In this article, we take Australia’s recent bid to join the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as an opportunity to identify national, local and multidirectional dynamics shaping public remembrance of the Holocaust and colonial violence in Australia. Joining IHRA signifies a belated national commitment to Holocaust remembrance, which has traditionally been fostered in Australia by survivor communities. Significantly, the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) has recently ventured beyond survivor memory, positioning Holocaust remembrance as a platform to identify ongoing human rights violations against Indigenous Australians and other marginalized groups. While this multidirectional framework promotes an inclusive practice of remembrance, we argue that it may inadvertently flatten complex histories into instances of “human rights violations” and decentre the foundational issue of settler colonial violence in Australia. To explore the personal and affective work of remembering settler violence from an Indigenous perspective, we turn to two multiscalar artworks by Judy Watson that exemplify a mnemonic politics of location. the names of places contributes to a local and national public remembrance of settler violence by identifying and mapping colonial massacre sites. In experimental beds, Watson links her matrilineal family history of racial exclusion with that of Thomas Jefferson’s slave, Sally Hemings. This transnational decolonial feminist work takes the gendered and racialized body and intimate sexual appropriation as a ground for a multidirectional colonial memory, thereby providing an alternative to the dominant Holocaust paradigm and its idiom of human rights.


Multidirectional memory Holocaust memory Human rights museums Colonial violence Feminist politics of location Judy Watson 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics (SLLL)Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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