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Alexander, Phil (2018) 'Sounding the Holocaust, silencing the city: memorial soundscapes in today's Berlin.' Cultural Studies, 33 (5). pp. 778-801.

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Abstract

Silence appears frequently in discourses of the Holocaust – as a metaphorical absence, a warning against forgetting, or simply the only appropriate response. But powerful though these meanings are, they often underplay the ambiguity of silence’s signifying power. This article addresses the liminality of silence through an analysis of its richly textured role in the memorial soundscapes of Berlin. Beyond an aural version of erasure, unspeakability, or the space for reflection upon it, I argue that these silent spaces must always be heard as part of their surrounding urban environment, refracting wider spatial practices and dis/order. When conventions are reversed – when the present is silent – the past can resound in surprising and provocative ways, collapsing spatial and temporal borders and escaping the ritualized boundaries of formal commemoration. This is explored through four different memorial situations: the disturbing resonances within the Holocaust Memorial; the transgressive processes of a collective silent walk; Gleis 17 railway memorial’s opening up of heterotopic ‘gaps’ in time; and sounded/silent history in the work of singer Tania Alon. Each of these examples, in different ways, frames a slippage between urban sound and memorial silence, creating a parallel symbolic space that the past and the present can inhabit simultaneously. In its unpredictable fluidity, silence becomes a mobile and subversive force, producing an imaginative space that is ambiguous, affective and deeply meaningful. A closer attention to these different practices of listening disrupts a top-down, strategic discourse of silence as conventionally emblematic of reflection and distance. The contemporary urban soundscape that slips through the silent cracks problematizes the narrative hegemony of memorial itself.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Berlin; Jewish; silence; memorial; Holocaust; sound
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
ISSN: 09502386
Copyright Statement: © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2018.1543715
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2021 08:59
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/34686
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council

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