For whom there is no archive

For whom there is no archive
24 March 2021, 6.00pm - 7.00pm

Speaker: Sam Dolbear (IMLR/Berlin)

'It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the nameless', wrote Walter Benjamin in 1939-40. Around eight years before, he had constructed a diagram of forty-eight names, formed into constellations via a network of lines. He named those on the diagram as ‘primal acquaintances’ (Urbekanntschaften): family relations, school comrades, mistaken identities and travel companions. Though most of those on the diagram have known or knowable lives, one has always evaded identification: Alice Weylorz, positioned in the top left of the diagram between Asja Lācis (below) and Erich Unger (above). This paper stages a number of possible figurations of Alice Weylorz: as a missing person, a mistaken identity, even an imaginary friend. It asks if the historical task should be devoted to the memory of the nameless, what of the memory of those for whom only a name remains?

Sam Dolbear is a postdoctoral fellow at the ICI-Berlin and formerly a Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Visiting Fellow in Exile Studies at the Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies (Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study).

Image courtesy of the Walter Benjamin Archive, ARC. 4º 1598 04 75, the National Library of Israel (detail)

This event will be held online, via Zoom. Participation is free, but advance registration is essential.  Registration closes on 23 March 2021.


Jane Lewin
020 7862 8966