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Bearing Witness in Cultural and Epistemological Practices

International Conference on Bearing Witness, January 15 to 17, 2015, at Freie Universität Berlin

№ 003/2015 from Jan 06, 2015

An international conference to be held from January 15 to 17 at Freie Universität will focus on the witness as a key figure of cultural and epistemological practices. Current controversies and historical perspectives on the subject of testimony will be discussed. The conference is being organized by the research project on "Zeugenschaft" ("Testimony / Bearing Witness"), which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The project is being done in cooperation between Freie Universität Berlin and the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin (ZfL). Under the direction of the professor of philosophy, Sybille Krämer (Freie Universität Berlin), and the director of ZfL, Sigrid Weigel, researchers from both institutions will address the phenomenon of testimony from a philosophical and cultural studies perspective. The conference is open to the public, and admission is free.

The international conference will address five main areas: 1. The 20th and 21st Centuries – Witnesses between Memory, Politics, and Justice. 2. Historical Perspectives on the Concept of Testimony. 3. The Epistemology of Testimony: Secondhand Belief or Genuine Knowledge? 4. Trauma and Testimony – Perspectives from Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis. 5. Testimony and Visual Evidence in Art and other Media. A German-Israeli documentary film, "Geheimsache Ghettofilm" (A Film Unfinished), by the director Yael Hersonski will be shown on Friday, January 16.

This conference is the first opportunity for scholars dealing with very different aspects of testimony to meet together. On the one hand, the conference deals with the testimony of survivors, the victims of war and genocide; on the other hand, it deals with testimony as a form of objectified knowledge that can be used to learn from the words of others. The speakers will include José Brunner (Tel Aviv), François Hartog (Paris), Axel Gelfert (Singapore), Michèle Kahan (Tel Aviv), Marcel Lemonde (Strasbourg), Miranda Fricker (Sheffield), Dirk Koppelberg (Berlin), Steve Weine (Chicago), Zohar Rubinstein (Tel Aviv), Carolin Behrmann (Florence), and John Durham Peters (Iowa City).

The DFG-funded project aims to show that the specificity of the phenomenon testimony lies in the integration of knowledge questions with ethical and political problems. In current research, both aspects are often still considered separately. The participating scholars wish to bring the various concepts of testimony in relation to each other. They will first analyze various figurations of testimony (epistemology, ethics, politics of memory, aesthetics, literature, images), and then demonstrate that knowledge and recognition are closely interwoven in these cultural and epistemological practices.

Time and Location

  • January 15, 2:30 p.m. to January 17, 6 p.m.
  • Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Philosophy, Habelschwerdter Allee 30, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem
  • Film Screening: Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstraße 18, 10117 Berlin-Mitte

Further Information

Sibylle Schmidt, Researcher, DFG Project on Zeugenschaft, Institute of Philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-51919, Email:, Project Homepage: