This paper offers a preliminary investigation of the interrelation between literature, photography, and public memory under the conditions of authoritarian and neoliberal state control. Focusing on a fictionalized photograph of the 1953 workers’ uprising in East Germany in Uwe Johnson’s novel The Third Book about Achim (1967), I explore the performative capacity of photo-literary spaces to open up, and disrupt, institutionalized productions of public memory. Whereas official memorial technologies tend to close down alternative interpretations of history, this essay shows how small-scale, clandestine, or itinerant photographs embedded in literary archives animate historical impasses and possibilities, which persist to be responded to by future readers. More specifically, drawing on affect theory and political philosophy, I aim to rehabilitate photography’s indexicality as a performative register that enables human proximities across the boundaries of time and space.
- public memory
- photo theory