Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights


Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies: Workshop Call

Teaching about Perpetrators: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics

Utrecht University, November 10-12, 2016

Organizer: Susanne C. Knittel

This series of workshops aims to examine how our contradictory attitudes toward perpetrators in society and culture can in themselves be made the object of enquiry. Furthermore, we will explore the opportunities and challenges for teaching and learning about past atrocities through the figure of the perpetrator across disciplines.

This is the third workshop in the series, organized in the context of the ongoing research project Faces of Evil: The Figure of the Perpetrator in Contemporary Memory Culture (supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, NWO).

This time, we will focus on the ethical, aesthetic, and political dimensions of the representation of perpetrators and the use of such representations in the classroom. What are the advantages and potential dangers of using self-representations, for instance propaganda materials and videos disseminated across social media? How can the ethical, aesthetic and political problems associated with these materials be made productive for educational purposes? What sorts of lessons can be learnt from studying perpetrator (self)representations and what are the problems and limitations associated with them in an educational setting? What about fictional representations? What role do empathy and identification, disgust, fascination, and other strong affects play in pedagogy about perpetrators? Are we ‘allowed’ to feel empathy for perpetrators? Where is the line between understanding and forgiveness? What role does affect play in the politics of memory and memorialization with regard to the figure of the perpetrator? And, conversely, how can affect be integrated into the fostering of political awareness and engagement?

The workshop is open to scholars, including advanced PhD students and early career academics, educators, and curators and will be concerned with pedagogical practices relating to the figure of the perpetrator at all educational levels.

The workshop will not take the form of panels and presentations, but rather of a combination of seminar-style discussion sessions. Space is limited; if you would like to participate please send a short bio and a description (no more than 1 page) of your current or recent research and pedagogical practice with regard to the figure of the perpetrator to Susanne C. Knittel ( by October 1, 2016. (Returning participants from the first and second workshop do not need to resend their project descriptions, unless they have changed substantially in the meantime.)