"From Hidden to (Over-)Exposed": The Grotesque and Performing Bodies of World War II Nazi Concentration Camp Prisoners
World War II continues to carry considerable “cultural weight” in the United States. Many movies, documentaries, and television mini-series about the Holocaust seem to try to make sense of what can seem like a senseless act. The field of performance studies offers another avenue by which we can examine those events and our responses to them. In this paper, I apply a construct of the grotesque body, based primarily on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Julia Kristeva, to the prisoners of World War II Nazi concentration camps to examine the social networks at play in current understandings of the Holocaust. In chapter one, I analyze the relationship between prisoners, guards, and prison officials by means of the grotesque body in the official and clandestine cabarets performed by the prisoners. In chapter two, I examine the role of the grotesque body in the photographs taken by Allied soldiers after constructing the premise of viewing photographs as performance. I argue that the prisoners’ bodies are integral in the maintenance of our collective memory. In chapter three, I track contemporary appropriations of one specific photograph of prisoners and the way the performance of reading the image has changed as the appropriations have become more politicized. The bodies of prisoners have gone from hidden to revealed to appropriated.
School:Bowling Green State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:grotesque cabaret photography performance of viewing concentration camp prisoners
Date of Publication:01/01/2007