The Post-doctoral Research Fellow will develop and conduct research on the ‘Interpreting Perpetrator Voices’ project, supported by Pears Foundation. The Fellow will engage with the ‘Final Account: Third Reich Testimonies’ archival collection, ensuring its wider impact and long-term legacy. The post is funded for 14 months, in the first instance. Start date: Interviews will be carried out (online) on 3 August 2022 and the person appointed will start on 1 September 2022, or as soon as possible thereafter. The post will be located in the Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which is based in the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS).
Main purpose of the job
Using the ‘Final Account’ collection as a starting point or incorporating it into a new or existing wider project, the fellowship will address one or more of the following challenges posed by testimonies from the ‘perpetrator side’:
- truth, authenticity, and witnessing in accounts from the “perpetrator side” and their reception
- writing history: new insights into the history of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and their legacies, as well as mass violence elsewhere, both in the past and the present
- challenges and opportunities for education and public history
As part of the fellowship, the Research Fellow will focus on:
- Academic work: Using ‘Final Account’ for/in a defined set of outputs (e.g. monograph, a substantive chapter in a monograph, a set of articles) from any perspective (including e.g. history, memory studies, philosophy, pedagogy, sociology, psychology, cultural studies, perpetrator research) that will demonstrate the insights to be gained from critical engagement with perpetrator voices in this collection and beyond.
As the collection has now been catalogued to a very granular level with accompanying materials such as collection guide, synopses, and select transcripts increasing its discoverability even further, the Research Fellow need not possess any prior in-depth knowledge of the collection. The Research Fellow may use any number of interviews in ‘Final Account’ on a particular topic or event while linking to other sources.
- Public engagement: communicate research findings and wider issues relating to perpetrator voices to a wider public, e.g. through podcast(s), public event(s), short film(s), publication(s) etc. aimed at a non-academic audience.
- ‘Final Account’ legacy: lead on ensuring the collection’s legacy while embedding it into wider research and education context by:
- Promoting ‘Final Account’ through blog posts and joint events with project partners
- Liaising with archive partners, e.g. regarding the addition of new partners
- Liaising with UCL Special Collections & Digital Collections regarding the use of the collection by UCL staff and students, and promoting it within UCL
- Organising, and seeking additional funding for, events such as a conference or workshop around the use of oral testimonies in historical research, education, and commemoration, in conjunction with project partners
The Research Fellow will also participate in and proactively contribute to the activities of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.
In their applications, prospective Research Fellows will need to develop a project proposal that addresses each of the three elements: suggesting how they would use ‘Final Account’ in their research and publications; explaining how wider publics will benefit from their work; and detailing how they would promote the ‘Final Account’ to wider educational and research communities.
Duties and responsibilities
- To undertake their own research into ‘perpetrator voices’, with a defined research plan
- To write and prepare for publication journal articles and/or complete a monograph on their own research
- To prepare and present the findings of research activities to colleagues and wider audiences as relevant
- To assist in the planning, organisation and implementation of seminars, workshops, conferences, public events and other relevant impact activities related to the above projects
- To liaise with the project partners of the ‘Final Account’ archival collection to promote it and ensure its legacy
- To take a lead in developing and running the activities of the UCL Centre for Collective Violence and Genocide Studies, based in the IAS
How to apply
Please apply through the UCL online recruitment page (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/jobs/) by midnight on Monday 18 July 2022. Interviews will be held (online) on 3 August 2022. We will offer feedback to all interviewees, but we regret that we are unable to provide feedback at any earlier stage of the application process. If you have any other questions about the post, please contact the IAS Administrator, Catherine Stokes: email@example.com.
Please upload the following additional documentation as a single PDF file with clearly labelled sub-headings:
1. A CV with list of publications, including the contact details of three referees
2. A covering letter demonstrating how you meet the criteria for the post
3. A research and public engagement proposal of no more than 1,350 words outlining:
a. your plan for research and proposed outputs (750 words) falling within the scope of the post’s main purpose, indicating how this fits within the wider project (see Further Information below)
b. your plan and appropriate media for communicating your research findings and wider issues relating to perpetrator voices to wider publics (350 words); and
c. your plan for ensuring the legacy of ‘Final Account’ (250 words)
4. One sole-authored article or chapter-length sample of your academic work.
Please note that applications will not be considered unless all of the above are included. References will only be required for shortlisted candidates. Please ensure that your referees are aware and will be able to provide references at short notice in late July if requested.
Project summary: ‘Interpreting Perpetrator Voices’
Accounts by perpetrators and so-called ‘bystanders’ challenge the notions of truth, authenticity, and witnessing that we often associate with survivor testimonies. Some scholars characterise these accounts as fundamentally different, dismiss them outright, or consider them to consist primarily of lies or (self-)deception. Others warn of ‘false testimony’, ‘antitestimony’, and ‘anti-witnesses’, and suggest that we should apply specific moral and interpreted considerations to these accounts. This anxiety is specific to accounts relating to Nazi violence. In genocide studies, there is an assumption that fieldwork involving convicted and imprisoned perpetrators is ethical, necessary and beneficial; only recently have scholars begun to reflect on the ethical implications of their research. There are also significant issues to be raised around the risks of seeming to give a platform to racist views and stereotypes without ensuring adequate counterchecks, balances and challenges – which raise further questions around truth, neutrality and objectivity in scholarly research.
The passing away of Nazi perpetrators and their enablers, facilitators, helpers and beneficiaries has nonetheless resulted in increased efforts at recording and reinterpreting their voices, a process that has been led by key institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a number of filmmakers. Interviews conducted by filmmakers are among the most prominent, given their wide reach through documentary films. While few people will ever be confronted with several hours of an in-depth, audio-only oral history interview conducted by German scholars in the 1980s or 1990s, filmed accounts - short snippets embedded in a wider narrative as part of a documentary - reach far larger audiences. But these and other accounts remain under-used by scholars and they are still largely absent from exhibitions and other educational resources and programmes, as well as requiring significant contextualisation.
The dominance of first-hand testimony and especially of filmed testimony raises serious questions, not least regarding the ways in which a medium where filmmakers have played a key role impacts on historical understanding. How do we approach these and other accounts? Can they provide new insights into the history of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and their legacies, as well as mass violence elsewhere, both in the past and the present? How can we authenticate them, corroborate, and compare them to other sources or other historical contexts? How do we reconcile what seem to be contradictory approaches to testimonies depending on subject matter and how we identify the narrator? How can we make the often seemingly invisible work of the interviewer, filmmaker, or journalist transparent to a wider audience? Expressing judgments about what is morally right and wrong has been shown to prevent critical evaluation and analysis; how can we learn and teach techniques for assessment that are both alert to the historical context and the needs of the present in which we engage with the topic?
In the wider context of mass public engagement with not only the Holocaust but also continuing and new forms of racism, antisemitism, and prejudice today, with numerous representations of perpetrator voices, it is even more important to raise critical awareness of key issues in this way. Using UCL’s copy of ‘Final Account: Third Reich Testimonies’ as a springboard to engage with broader questions, this project is designed to explore the opportunities and challenges of working with ‘perpetrator voices’ in research, education, and public history. The project also aims to establish and promote ‘Final Account: Third Reich Testimonies’ as a key resource and source collection for researchers and educators. More information about the ‘Final Account’ collection can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/collections/ucl-digitalcollections/browse-collections/final-account-third-reichtestimonies
In addition, the project seeks to have a wider impact on our capacity to understand ‘perpetrator voices’ and their spin on the truth. In an era characterised by the spread of social media, ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, it is crucial to hone skills of critical thinking and the capacity to critique narratives that misinterpret ‘evidence’ in light of prejudices.