Interrogating the Index: Or, Reading an Archive Against the Grain

With USC Shoah Foundation Senior Fellow, Jeffrey Shandler

Jeffrey Shandler will examine issues that impact how Holocaust survivors tell their stories, including the incorporation of live performance, choice of spoken language, and the use of humor, among other topics.
Accessing the extensive holdings of the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive depends on its elaborate system of cataloging and indexing. These finding aids reflect the original vision of the Visual History Archive (VHA) as a memorial project and a resource for scholars and others interested in learning about the Holocaust from the perspective of survivors and other eyewitnesses. However, like any other archive, the VHA’s interviews provide a wealth of information on many other topics. This talk will examine what can be revealed by reading the VHA “against the grain,” using its finding aids to consider such issues as the impact of other mediations of the Holocaust on: how survivors tell their stories; how the incorporation of live performance or of other media shape their narratives; the role played by language choice in shaping the interview process; how renowned survivors discuss their history of offering their personal narratives to the public figure in their life stories; and how humor figures in Holocaust remembrance, among other topics. 

Dr. Shandler is professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University and the president of the Association for Jewish Studies, and he is the USC Shoah Foundation's spring 2013 Senior Fellow. For a complete bio, visit

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  • Master of Liberal Studies
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Mark Taper Hall, THH 355
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0355