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Rethinking empathy: emotions triggered by the Holocaust among Muslim-minority in Germany

Ozyurek, Esra (2018) Rethinking empathy: emotions triggered by the Holocaust among Muslim-minority in Germany. Anthropological Theory, 18 (4). 456 - 477. ISSN 1463-4996

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1463499618782369


In the last decade there has been widely shared discomfort about the way Muslim minority Germans engage with the Holocaust. They are accused of not showing empathy towards its Jewish victims and, as a result, of not being able to learn the necessary lessons from this massive crime. By focusing on instances in which the emotional reactions of Muslim minority Germans towards the Holocaust are judged as not empathetic enough and morally wrong, this article explores how Holocaust education and contemporary understandings of empathy, in teaching about the worst manifestation of racism in history, can also at times be a mechanism to exclude minorities from the German/European moral makeup and the fold of national belonging. Expanding from Edmund Husserl’s embodied approach to empathy to a socially situated approach, via the process of paarung, allows us to reinterpret expressions of fear and envy, currently seen as failed empathy, as instances of intersubjective connections at work. In my reinterpretation of Husserl’s ideas, the process of paarung that enables empathy to happen is not abstract, but pairs particular experiences happening at particular times and places under particular circumstances to individuals of certain social standing and cultural influences. An analogy can be made to shoes. Anyone has the capacity to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes. Nevertheless, the emotional reactions the experience triggers in each person will be shaped by individual past experiences and social positioning. Hence grandchildren of workers who arrived Germany after the World War II to rebuild the country resist an ethnicized Holocaust memory and engage with it keenly through their own subject positions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Sage Publications
Divisions: European Institute
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Date Deposited: 08 May 2018 14:44
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2024 23:24

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