Global subjects: Exploring subjectivation through ethnography of media production

Felicitas Macgilchrist

Abstract

What does it mean to represent events from the Holocaust in a graphic novel? And what if this is done not in the stark design of Art Spiegelman’s Maus but in the light ligne claire (known from Tintin)? This paper explores the discursive practices surrounding The Search, a graphic novel produced specifically to teach children and young adults about the Holocaust. It asks how (novel) forms of subjectivation are articulated in the everyday, mundane practices of educational media workers. Drawing on poststructuralist theories of the subject and close micro-analysis of language (and semiotic) practices, the paper presents extracts from ethnographic observations of a team of authors designing teaching and learning materials to accompany The Search. These materials – and their practices of production – are participating in transforming memories of the Holocaust and thus (co)producing forms of globalisation. Findings suggest that while the Holocaust has traditionally been seen as a matter of ‘national’ responsibility, The Search and its teaching materials invite readers to see it as (global/universal) ‘individualised’ responsibility. Students are subjectivated as global subjects: Firstly, as universal-ethical subjects and, secondly, as contingency-tolerant subjects. These materials thus constitute a mundane, everyday element shaping new ways of being.

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