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Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission


Testimony and Teaching: The Personal and Social Costs of Confronting Trauma

Event details
Calendar   Speaking Engagements
Location Zoom
Date Sun, Mar 26, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Duration   1h

As Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, Dr. Stephanie Arel recognized costs – psychological, spiritual, and physical – aligned with responding to mass trauma and participating in communal recovery. The impact of bearing witness at memorial museums emerged in the lives of workers. To explore the phenomenon, she visited Auschwitz, interviewing those who remember the Holocaust’s horrors while resisting its infiltration in their personal lives. The immensity of honoring the dead for others inspired additional sojourns in Bosnia Herzegovina, Cambodia, Israel, South Africa, and the United States. She discovered dimensions of pride and care evident in those who honor memory: the capacity of workers to address reverberating political tensions while tending to visitor needs; the passion workers have for giving voice to the voiceless who died during traumatic events while offering care and support to the survivors, and the reality that reassembling the fragments of mass trauma is not for the weary, but instead emerges as a calling and a vocation.

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Stephanie Arel (PhD, Boston University) teaches at Fordham University. She is the author of Ideology and Utopia in the Twenty-First Century: The Surplus of Meaning in Ricoeur’s Dialectical Concept (Rowman & Littlefield 2018), and Human Dignity at the Thresholds (Springer 2023). She holds an Integrative Trauma Certificate for trauma treatment in a clinical setting from the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, New York and is trained in Compassion Fatigue for professionals. Her latest book, Bearing Witness: The Wounds of Trauma at Memorial Museums, will be published in September 2023 by Fortress Press. The American Academy of Religion recently awarded her a grant to produce a podcast entitled Bearing Witness: The Impact of Memorialization. She has given workshops around the globe on the psychological, social, and spiritual costs of the chronic encounter with traumatic content.

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