'Clogs, boots and shoes built to the sky': initial findings from a sociomaterial analysis of education at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Recent statistics indicate that Scotland’s level of hate crime is at a five year high, convincing that elements of British society actively resist multiculturalism: indeed the place of Holocaust education has thus never been more vindicated, both in terms of its historicity and the lessons we can learn from the event, regarding citizenship and moral education (Cowan and Maitles, 2011). However, despite a body of educational literature which purports to evaluate the best methods for Holocaust teaching, little is understood about its educational ‘affects’; in particular, the pedagogies of educational excursions to Holocaust sites (Burke, 2003; Lindquist, 2011). This PhD study thus investigates different pedagogies at a particular site of death and destruction: Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum (Law, 2004). Here three case studies of learning are explored in-depth: a Scottish Government-funded student excursion; an independent Scottish excursion; and an excursion involving Norwegian students, whose curriculum is closely aligned to the Scottish system, but whose historical circumstances regarding the Holocaust differ greatly. Deploying a hitherto unexplored methodology for Holocaust education studies - sociomaterial analysis – data has been collated from ethnography, documents and focus group interviews to explore how particular assemblages of observed human and nonhuman interaction facilitate students’ learning about the Holocaust (Fenwick and Edwards, 2010). For the purposes of the CiCe Student Conference, an aspect of data analysis is mapped out, attempting to disentangle how a single exhibit communicates multiple realities of the Holocaust to students. The material-discursive assemblages comprising the museum’s exhibit of plundered shoes are described in relation to (1) shoes as hybrid recording devices (2) shoes-as-exhibition-space, where the sociomaterial physical things that comprise the room are considered as recounting a particular version of the Holocaust, and; (3) shoes as performing a memorial script. Further analysis will elucidate how students’ learning selves are practised in a space which has been designed to elicit an emotional response from the viewer (Ellsworth, 2005).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdentities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges
Subtitle of host publicationSelected papers from the fifteenth Conference of the Children's Identity and Citizenship in Europe Academic Network
EditorsPeter Cunningham
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherChildren's Identity and Citizenship European Association
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781907675201
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event15th Annual CiCE Network Conference - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 12 Jun 201314 Jun 2013


Conference15th Annual CiCE Network Conference


  • Holocaust education


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