Past Workshops

Trauma Tourism


Typically, we think of tourism as visiting some place “nice,” taking in museums, admiring architecture, and sampling good food. However, tourists are increasingly choosing to visit more challenging locales, places where traumatic events occurred and where emotions associated with those events must be confronted. We call this type of travel “trauma tourism,” and seek to examine the origins and evolution of these trauma sites, their aesthetics, visitors, funding, purpose, and their impact on individuals and societies.

Adopting a range of disciplinary and regional approaches, our study group invites the participation of the university community at workshops and lectures during 2007-08 academic year. Tentative scheduling includes considerations of several traumas and their accompanying locales: the Holocaust, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, and the Vietnam War.


Trauma Tourism Symposium
Friday April 25th
8417 Social Science

Brigitte Sion (Performance Studies, NYU)
"Marketing Memorials in Berlin and Buenos Aires"

Christina Schwenkel (Anthropology, UC Riverside)
"Takes of Salvation: Healing and Moral Journeys of US Veterans in Vietnam"

The symposium will also feature presentations by UW faculty and graduate students


9:00am - 9:15am
Laurie Beth Clark


Robyn Autry (Sociology)
"Desegregating the Past: The Transformation of Historical Imagination at American and South African Museums "

Erika Robb (Anthropology)
"Favela Tours: Guns, Slums, and the Trauma of Everyday Violence in Rio de Janeiro"

Toni Pressley-Sanon (African Languages and Literature)
"Visual Art and Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Ouidah and Haiti"

Dacil Keo (Political Science)
"Likely Bedfellows: NGOs and "Trauma Tourism" in Cambodia"

10:15am-10:45 am
10:45 am-11:00am
Brigitte Sion (Performance Studies, NYU)
"Marketing Memorials in Berlin and Buenos Aires"
12:00pm-1:00 pm (with the Southeast Asian Studies Friday Forum)
Christina Schwenkel (Anthropology, University of California Riverside)
"Tales of Salvation: Healing and Moral Journeys of US Veterans in Vietnam"
1:00 pm-2:00pm
This event is sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Trauma Tourism Study Group, with support from the Division of International Studies, the International Institute, Global Studies, and the Center for the Humanities A.W. Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops. For questions, please email

---------------------------------- Past Meetings --------------------------------------------

The Trauma Tourism Study Group invites you to attend two lectures on genocide and tourism
Friday April 4th, 2008
9:00-12:00 am
206 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Dr
Madison. WI
Professor Sara Guyer (English, UW Madison)


Title: Rwanda's Bones

Abstract: This paper focuses on those genocide memorials in Rwanda that preserve and expose the bones of the dead. I argue that these sites do not recover these remains as those of individuals, and thus reflect a complex, wavering distinction between commemorating the destruction of a population and death in general. I suggest, moreover, that this style of commemoration, whereby acts of commemoration recover neither individual persons nor proper names, render the memorials indistinguishably memorials to a destroyed population (genocide) and to the dead-in-general. Whereas Philip Gourevitch compellingly suggests that in order to "picture" (imagine, represent, or understand) genocide you must accept the principle of the exterminator, and see not people but a "people" (70), I argue that these memorials collapse the foundations of these apparently opposed ways of seeing. In conclusion, I will suggest that despite the apparent difference between the task of commemorating the Hol ocaust (absent remains, ash) and of the Rwandan genocide (visible bodies, bones), these memorials reveal the enduring necessity of testimony.

Professor Paul Williams (Museum Studies, NYU)


Title: Between the Object and the Subject: Experience and Memory in Cambodian Trauma Tourism

Abstract: Focusing on Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek Memorial, I will analyze the problematic issues that surround the mushrooming industry of Cambodian genocide tourism. Questioning the agreeable principle that sites of trauma can act as both places of local memorialization and tourist education, I explore how the economic development of authentic sites of violence can stir alienation in local memory and visitor experience alike. Tourists’ desire for satisfying experiences relies, at this juncture, on the authenticity of the “raw materials” at the sites, rather than the legitimacy of Cambodian forms of remembering and forgetting that have little connection to the memorials. This situation, I suggest, perpetuates a breach between the subjectivity of lived memory and the objectification of “imagined history.” In the latter part of my talk, I will draw a wider net to consider “trauma tourism” in global terms. Is the Cambodian example an acute example of a dynamic that exists in all cases – from the Holocaust to Hiroshima, or 9/11 to Nanjing – or are there alternative memorial practices that can evade this incongruity?

11:00am --- Discussion

This event is sponsored by the Trauma Tourism Study Group, the Division of International Studies, the International Institute, Global Studies, and the Center for the Humanities A.W. Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops. For questions, please email

Two events with Sandra Richards, Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University.

Professor RIchards received her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D.from Stanford University. Dr. Richards' teaching interests center on American Drama, African-American and African theatres, and black feminist theories. She has taught dramatic literature and directed African-American, Caribbean, and African plays at Stanford University, San Francisco State, Northwestern University, and the University of Benin (Nigeria), where she was a Fulbright lecturer from 1983 to 1985. She has published articles on such African-American playwrights as Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, and Nigerian dramatists Wole Soyinka, Bode Sowande, and Zulu Sofola in Theatre Journal, New Theatre Quarterly Reinelt and Roach, eds., Critical Theory and Performance, and Parker and Sedgwick, eds., Performance and Performativity. Her full-length study entitled Ancient Songs Set Ablaze: The Theatre of Femi Osofisan was published by Howard University Press and selected by Choice as one of the ou tstanding academic publications of 1997. From 1998-2001, Richards served as the Chair of the African American Studies department at Northwestern, and from 2001-2004, she held the Leon Forrest Professorship of African American Studies. Currently, she is researching issues of cultural tourism to slave sites throughout the Black Atlantic.

Thursday, December 6
5:30 p.m. Lecture
'Wade in the Water': Performing Memories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
L140 Chazen
800 University Avenue

Friday, December 7
9am-11am Workshop
336 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Drive

Please email for supplemental, but not required, workshop readings.

Two events featuring Marianne Hirsch, Professor of English and Comparative Literature atColumbia University, where she also has an appointment in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She was born in Romania, and educated at Brown University where she received her BA/MA and Ph.D. degrees. Before moving to Columbia, she taught at Dartmouth College for many years, most recently as the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities. Her recent publications include Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory (1997), The Familial Gaze (ed.1999), Time and the Literary (co-ed.2002), a special issue of Signs on "Gender and Cultural Memory" (co-ed. 2002), and Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (co-ed. 2004). Over the last few years, she has also published numerous articles on cultural memory, visuality and gender, particularly on the representation of World War Two and the Holocaust in literature, testimony and photography. Currently, she is writing a bo ok with Leo Spitzer Ghosts of Home : Czernowitz and the Holocaust. She is the editor of PMLA and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the ACLS, the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, the National Humanities Center, and the Bellagio and Bogliasco Foundations. She has served on the MLA Executive Council, the ACLA Advisory Board, the Board of Supervisors of The English Institute, and the Executive Board of the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature.

Monday, October 29, 2007
9am-11am Workshop
206 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Dr.

'We Would Not Have Come WIthout You': Generations of Nostalgia, by Marianne Hirsch & Leo Spitzer, American Imago, Vol.59, No. 3, 253-276, 2002 by The John Hopkins University Press

Locating Memory, Photographic Acts, Edited by Annette Kuhn and Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Berghabn Books, New York, Oxford

Please email for supplemental, but not required, workshop readings.

Monday, October 29, 2007
5:30 p.m. Lecture
"This is it, this is it. Only it's completely different." Narratives of Return
L140 Chazen Museum of Art
800 University Ave.

What kind of quest is enacted by journeys and narratives of return? How do objects mediate these journeys? In this paper, I analyze the plot engendered by return journeys to lost homes, as well as the promises of revelation they hold out and ultimately disappoint. On the basis of two texts, Gassam Kanafani's “Return to Haifa” and Lily Brett's Too Many Men, I will trace the layers of search and revelation that characterize these plots and analyze different media of embodied memory that propel them: household objects, domestic interiors, items of clothing, photographs. In these narratives centering on the family and the home as the sites of dispossession, the figure of the lost child becomes the ultimate representation of the irreplaceable loss caused by the disruptions of war and Holocaust.

Kanafani's 1969 short story about a Palestinian couple's return to Haifa and their encounter of a Holocaust survivor living in their former home and Brett's 1999 novel about a daughter who travels with her father to Auschwitz and to his former home in Poland serve as rich texts for this inquiry into objects, the body memory they release, and the quest plots they engender. I read them in conversation with Paul Connerton's and Aleida Assmann's reflections on embodied memory and the role objects and places play in triggering it.