The Poetry of Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Towards a New Performative Social Science

Frances Rapport


Performative Social Science provides the research scientist with a much needed platform to move beyond traditional approaches to data collection, analysis and the presentation of study findings towards a response to research questions that closely resonates with the raw materials at hand. For the Performative Social Scientist's voice to be heard, new ways must be found to consider how best to represent the social world, relaxing longstanding and rigid qualitative research frameworks in favour of more contemporary and flexible approaches to working that welcome inter-disciplinary practice. By re-defining the theoretical and paradigmatic boundaries of our studies we can then encourage others to consider a range of alternative positions from which to view the world. The paper embraces the potential such a platform offers by presenting one Holocaust survivor's lived experiences of these extraordinary events including internment in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Through a visual and textual journey that employs photographs and poetic representations derived from one "research conversation" with the survivor, a "photo-textual montage" aims to engender a more empathic response to survivor testimony. The paper also attempts a novel juxtaposition of images and words to present a richer understanding of the researcher's relationship with the survivor, the research process and research outputs. In effect, the paper maps aspects of the research process in "coming to know" the data in chronological, temporal and spatial frames whilst emphasising the importance of presentation style, format and layout. This paper makes visible what is often invisible in more traditional approaches—the researchers own personal journey and the insights that this affords.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802285


Auschwitz-Birkenau; Holocaust; new forms of representation; poetic representation

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Copyright (c) 2008 Frances Rapport

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