These scholars came to Colby to ensure stories like that of Wilhelmina “Willie” Juhlin ’61 are not forgotten.
An international symposium, “Exploring Women’s Testimony: Genocide, War, Revolution, the Holocaust, and Human Rights,” took place Oct. 8-10 at Colby, the University of Maine at Augusta, and the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.
The intent, said Assistant Professor of French Audrey Brunetaux, was to consider human rights abuses—from the perspective of gender, in a variety of conflicts and cultures, and through the lenses of scholars, activists, educators, and artists.
“We wanted to talk not only about literature, but also about media, visual arts, and art,” said co-organizer Brunetaux. Nearly 20 scholars from around the world gathered to present on topics ranging from Romani women in the Holocaust to the Rwandan and Armenian genocides to women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Brunetaux, whose scholarship includes an emphasis on Holocaust narratives, said the theme of the symposium connects the Holocaust with abuses of recent years.
“Human rights issues, discrimination, extermination—they are still going on,” she said. “I think it’s still necessary to highlight those problems and have people come and talk … about what they are doing.”
Scholars from Rutgers, São Paolo, Michigan State, Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby, among others, participated, along with playwrights, video journalists, and activists from Uganda and Rwanda.
Brunetaux, a member of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center board, said the goal is to sustain conversations. “Sometimes students forget the past is still important, and there are repercussions in the present. With human rights we see that.”