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Narrating the Legacy of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portuguese Consul of Bordeaux in June 1940: Intersections of Personal, Familial, National, and International Memory Projects

Event Type
Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies
109 English Building
Mar 9, 2020   12:00 - 1:00 pm  
Michele Koven (Communication)
Brett Kaplan

This talk explores different divergent and convergent perspectives on the relatively unknown story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul of Bordeaux at the time of the fall of France in June 1940. Aristides de Sousa Mendes issued 30,000 illegal visas to refugees trying to flee Europe through Portugal, making him responsible for perhaps the largest rescue effort during the war. I apply a narrative approach inspired by work in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and communication to compare three different contemporary perspectives from which participants try to reconcile past and present : that of visa recipients and their descendants, that of Aristides Sousa Mendes' descendants, and that of contemporary Portuguese citizens and institutions who seek to rehabilitate him from criminal to national and international hero. I pay particular attention to how participants' experiences are transformed into testimonials of a larger legacy, as well as to the role of affect in differently positioned participants' (re)livings of this legacy in the current moment. ~ Michele Koven

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