Terrorscapes as heterotopias Rob van der Laarse, University of Amsterdam; VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands Jan Kolen, Leiden University; Delft University of Technology; Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands This paper explores the concentration camps from the Second World War as terrorscapes and heterotopias. Some concentration camps originated as “logical” elements of the rural landscape, such as at Westerbork (the Netherlands), where Jewish refugees were enabled to build a temporary existence as rural community within the framework of the ongoing heathland and polder reclamation after the closure of the Dutch farmer colonies for refugee Palestine pioneers (1918-1940). Others were established as integral components of urban or industrial landscapes, such as Auschwitz, were the camps functioned as crucial chains in the rapidly growing industry of war. Yet, as explicit examples of terrorscapes, the concentration camps exhibited all political, moral and organized aspects of terror, being the systemized use of violence by organized groups against civilian targets to effect a change of political power by spatial and ethnic cleansing in occupied territories. Moreover, they were increasingly designed and used as spatial technologies for exercising terrorism in an active way, not only practically but also symbolically. Although firmly embedded in the safely ordered and dissected cultural landscape, the camps soon became to disturb the everyday order of normalized living space. As such they might be understood as “heterotopias”, the geographical concept elaborated by Foucault for non-hegemonic spaces that cannot be classified easily in terms of here and there, public and private, self and other. From this perspective, the paper explores WWII concentration camps not so much as limited and clearly delineated sites of terror, but as extensive and diffuse spaces –as landscapes- that were characterized by liminality, ambiguity, transition and inversion, and by specific arrangements of material culture. The authors will suggest that this concept might also be related to the recent transformation of long ‘forgotten’ former ‘foreign’ camps into (trans)national memorial spaces and heritage sites. Examples are taken from Westerbork, Dachau, Auschwitz, Natzweiler and several other SS concentration camps.
9 Sep 2014
PECSRL conference 'Unraveling the Logics of Landscape' 8-12 Sept. 2014