The multilingual organization of remembrance in Nazi camp memorials

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This case study examines the multilingual organization of remembrance in a German Nazi camp memorial. Using tools from ethnographic Conversation Analysis, the author analyzes video-taped core activities from an annual gathering at the memorial site with regard to typical structural configurations and recurrent sequential patterns. Communicative behavior of professionals and volunteers working with and for the memorial tends to be characterized by an ‘interactional hybridity’, i.e. systematic shifts between formalized and (more) spontaneous forms of speech, initiated in particular by participating descendants of surviving inmates. A raised awareness for activity-specific constraints, including modes of coping with multilingual issues such as interpreter-mediated interaction, may help to improve the communicative competence of professionals and volunteers contributing to the remembrance and reconciliation work proposed by the memorial.


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