Masterclass ‘Testimony’ – Prof. Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University)

Date: Tuesday 13 June, 13:30-15:30
Location: Utrecht University, Drift 25, room 003
Credits: 1 EC
To register for the masterclass, please email dr Anna Poletti (a.l.poletti[at] and (osl-fgw[at]

Testimony, a concept that has an ancient heritage, has in the past thirty years become a cultural keyword as well as an important practice in literary, legal and human rights contexts. This masterclass will introduce students to range of approaches to testimony, including literary, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, feminist, anthropological and legal. We will consider a number of sites, including memoir, literature, law courts and transitional justice, in which testimony is produced, framed and judged. We will consider key issues such as the framing of testimony and questions of truth, authenticity, interpretation, and evidence. If time permits, we will consider issues raised by the production and circulation of testimony, for instance, in digital archives and film.

Contemporary Case Studies:

  • Didier Fassin, “The Humanitarian Politics of Testimony: Subjectification through Trauma in the Israeli-Palestinian-Conflict,” Cultural Anthropology 23.3 (2008): read 531-535.
  • Gilmore, Leigh. “Introduction.” Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say about Their Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
  • Kennedy, Rosanne. 2014, ‘Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere’, in Chiara De Cesari and Ann Rigney (ed.), Transnational Memory Circulation, Articulation, Scales, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, pp. 51-78.
  • Whitlock, Gillian. “The Ends of Testimony.” Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions, Oxford University Press, pp. 168-199.
  • Suggested viewing: Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing

Background Reading:

  • Giorgio Agamben, The Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books, 1999. pp. TBC
  • John Beverley, Testimonio: On the Politics of Truth (2004). pp. TBC
  • Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. TBC
  • Dori Laub, “Bearing Witness of the Vicissitudes of Listening, in Testimony” in Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History.
  • Peters, Julie Stone (2005) “”Literature,” the “Rights of Man,” and Narratives of Atrocity: Historical Backgrounds to the Culture of Testimony,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 17(2).
  • Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness, trans. Jared Stark (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006). pp. TBC

Dr. Rosanne Kennedy is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Culture at the Australian National University. Professor Kennedy’s research focuses on trauma, memory, and witnessing in Australia and transnational contexts; life-writing studies; biography; and human rights and justice issues. Her recent work includes “Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere” (in Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales; de Gruyter, 2014) and “Memory, History and the Law: Testimony and Collective Memory in Holocaust and Stolen Generations Trials” (in Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject; Routledge, 2013)

This masterclass, in conjunction with attendance at the Mediated Testimony Sympoisum at Utrecht University on 12 June (, will contribute 1 EC to RMA training offered by the OSL. To register for the masterclass, please email dr Anna Poletti (a.l.poletti[at] and (osl-fgw[at]
PDFs of the readings will be made available to registered masterclass participants.