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Kaitlyn Newman

by Betsy VanNoy Sep 11, 2019
Kaitlyn Newman

Forrest S. Crawford Fellow in Ethical Inquiry

PhD Candidate, Philosophy

College of the Liberal Arts

University Park


Kaity is a 6th year Ph.D. student in Philosophy. She is originally from Tennessee and completed undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and International Relations at Middle Tennessee State University. Her research interests are in 20th century philosophy, and the intersection of ethics and memory. Her dissertation is on the ethics of memory/memorialization and genocide remembrance through representation.

Dissertation: “Ethics in the Aftermath: Rethinking Post-Genocide Representations and Remembrance with Lyotard and Levinas”

Project Description: My dissertation examines the critically important accounts of language and subjectivity in the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-François Lyotard—two philosophers whose ideas were born in the aftermath of the Holocaust—and suggests that our contemporary understandings of these concepts affect the way in which we engage with post-genocide representations. I argue that by transforming our notions of language and subjectivity, in order to acknowledge the inherent excesses involved in both concepts, we can revolutionize the way post-genocide representations are taken up in public memory in order to make spaces of memory more open and inclusive. Both Lyotard and Levinas are committed to the idea that, in language, there is something that exceeds our ability to present it linguistically, and both believe that the Holocaust illustrates this point because it is impossible for us to capture the event in its entirety in language or signification more generally. In addition, with regard to subjectivity, both philosophers maintain that there is something within the self that exceeds the modern category of “the human.” Most importantly, this excess, or what cannot be captured in language or representation, has an ethical significance; we have a duty or responsibility to bear witness to it. With respect to representations of genocide, this means that, though every representation will inevitably fail to capture the entirety of the event, we nevertheless have a responsibility to continue to produce and engage with representations—memorials—of genocide. This reveals that that the activity of genocide remembrance is ongoing and, of necessity, never complete.