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University of Maine System (Orono, ME 04473-1513)
Anne Kelly Knowles (Project Director: September 2015 to June 2019)
Visualizing Spatial Experience in the Holocaust

Employing computational linguistics and natural language processing techniques to study how Holocaust survivors use spatial terms to describe their experiences. Testimonies from the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Center collection would provide the sources for the preliminary study.

First-person accounts are central to understanding the Holocaust. Our project will be the first to examine survivors' testimony for the spatiality of individuals' experiences. Drawing on video interviews with survivors, we will analyze the language survivors use in speaking of places, events, movement, relationships, and their perceptions of space and time. We will focus on how their social networks were fragmented and reformed and the spatial characteristics of work places and work relationships experienced by forced laborers in ghettos and labor camps. We will do this through a hybrid methodology that combines close listening with spatial visualization and corpus and computational linguistics methods that we will apply to interview transcripts. The dictionary of spatial and relational terms this will produce, along with our visual conceptualizations of the topologies of experience, will enable us to link survivors to Nazi-controlled spaces represented in our existing GIS datasets.

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Project fields:
European History; Geography; Jewish Studies

Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants

Digital Humanities

$73,168 (approved)
$61,907 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2016 – 3/31/2018