Intervention de Janine Altounian le 17 janvier à la conférence internationale "Testimony / Bearing Witness" de la Freie Universität de Berlin

International Conference on Bearing Witness in Cultural and Epistemological Practices - January 15 to 17 2015, at Freie Universität Berlin and Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin : Current Controversies and Historical Perspectives, organized by the research project “Zeugenschaft”.

Intervention Janine Altounian : « Quand le témoignage ne peut s’effectuer que par la médiation de la seconde ou troisième génération : le cas arménien » /«  Wenn das Zeugnis nur durch die Vermittlung der zweiten oder dritten Generation erfolgen kann – Der armenische Fall »/ «  When Bearing Witness is Only Achieved through Second or Third Generation Reports – The Armenian Case ».

Voir l'ouvrage collectif, Testimony/Bearing Witness, édité par Sybille Krämer et Sigrid Weigel et publié en 2017.


Testimony and bearing witness are key figures in cultural and epistemological practices. Within current debates in the humanities both have turned into controversial concepts that convey seemingly incommensurate claims: On the one hand, testimony is seen as a reliable source of information and knowledge, as a piece of evidence promising objectivity (predominantly in discourses of epistemology and law). On the other hand, bearing witness carries ethical and political reflections in terms of memory and history (for instance in the testimonies of survivors of genocide and extreme violence). We are even confronted with diverse epistemological ambitions and methodological trajectories: At one end of the spectrum a general concept of testimony as knowledge through the words of others, is reflected; at the other end, there is a skepticism towards general definitions, combined with the desire to shape figures of bearing witness by tracing their manifold sources in religion and cultural history.
This conference aims to channel the debate on bearing witness and giving testimony especially towards those aspects that appear precarious and controversial between philosophy and cultural history: What are the opportunities and limits involved in communicating epistemological and ethical, philosophical and cultural-historical, past and present perspectives on the phenomenon and concept of testimony and bearing witness?
The conference is organized by the research project “Zeugenschaft” (“Testimony/Bearing Witness”) and sponsored by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The project is led by Sybille Krämer (Institute of Philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin) and Sigrid Weigel (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin); collaborating researchers are Aurélia Kalisky, Heike Schlie (both ZfL Berlin), and Sibylle Schmidt (FU Berlin).

Conference Program

Thursday, Jan. 15

  Welcome and Introduction

  I. The 20th and 21st Centuries – Witnesses between Memory, Politics, and Justice

  Chair: Sybille Krämer

  José Brunner (Tel Aviv)

  A Narrative Turn in Human Rights Discourse? Victims of Gross Human Rights Violations: Between Truth Commissions and the Right to the Truth

  Marcel Lemonde (Strasbourg)

  Testimony/ Bearing Witness in Light of the Khmer Rouge Trial

  Sigrid Weigel (Berlin)

  Tensions and Interplay of Different Types of Testimony in a Film from the Warsaw Ghetto – “A Film Unfinished” by Yael Hersonski (2010)

  II. Historical Perspectives on the Concept of Testimony

  Chair: Sigrid Weigel

  Evening lecture

  François Hartog (EHESS Paris)

  The Presence of the Witness

Friday, Jan. 16

  Axel Gelfert (Singapore)

  Enlightenment Perspectives on the Problems of Testimony

  Michèle Bokobza Kahan (Tel Aviv)

  Can We Believe in What We See? Historical and Philosophical Approaches of Testimonial Discourses in the 17th and 18th Century in France

  III. The Epistemology of Testimony: Secondhand Belief or Genuine Knowledge?

  Chair: Sibylle Schmidt

  Sybille Krämer (Berlin)

  Epistemic Dependence and Trust

  Miranda Fricker (Sheffield)

  Having Your Say: The Expressive Value of Testimony

  Dirk Koppelberg (Berlin)

  How to Account for Group Testimony?

    Film screening at Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin-Mitte

    A Film Unfinished (ISR/D 2010), directed by Yael Hersonski

    Followed by a Discussion with Yael Hersonski (Tel Aviv)

    Moderation: Aurélia Kalisky

Saturday, Jan. 17

  IV. Trauma and Testimony – Perspectives from Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis

  Chair: Aurélia Kalisky

  Steve Weine (Chicago)

  Testimony and Therapeutic Culture

  Zohar Rubinstein (Tel Aviv)

  The Testimony of the Traumatic Witness: The Tension between the Therapeutic Act and the Loss of Words and Meaning

  Janine Altounian (Paris)

  Wenn das Zeugnis nur durch die Vermittlung der zweiten oder dritten Generation erfolgen kann – Der armenische Fall

  V. Testimony and Visual Evidence in Art and other Media

  Chair: Sigrid Weigel

  John Durham Peters (Iowa City)

  Like a Thief in the Night: Witnessing and Watching

  Peter Geimer (Berlin)

  Remembrance of Things Past: Testimony and Imagination

  End of the conference



Bearing Witness in Cultural and Epistemological Practices
Freie Universität Berlin
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