Kathryn L. Brackney is a modern European intellectual and cultural historian with a Ph.D. from Yale University. Her research explores how aesthetic norms have developed for remembering the Holocaust and other genocides. She has been awarded fellowships at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the USC Shoah Foundation. Dr. Brackney advises undergraduates working in European history and Jewish studies who are particularly interested in theory, memory, and visual culture.
Her current book project, Surreal Geographies: A New History of Holocaust Consciousness, recovers an eclectic, surreal tradition of Holocaust representation that was particularly common before the 1980s and still influences how we imagine the Holocaust and link it to other catastrophes today. Through a wide selection of art, literature, and film, she shows how portrayals of Jewish victims and survivors have shifted over time from the setting of an otherworldly “Planet Auschwitz” to the spare, intimate spaces of documentary interviews that are more familiar today. By following shifts in the visual and spatial organization of memory in works by authors and artists from the major countries of Jewish postwar resettlement, her project tracks the slow cultural processes by which victims of genocide have been enframed as “grievable life” and reveals a history of Holocaust consciousness that has been obscured by later scholarship’s focus on documentary realism and postmodern fragmentation.