Curriculum Selma Leydesdorff
Selma Leydesdorff is professor of oral history and culture. Her career is part of the transformation of oral history from mostly a fact-finding method-adding to and criticizing traditional historical narratives-to research on the ways memory is framed and modified over time. It has always been influenced by women's history. She moved from gender studies to her present position. She promoted oral history by extensive teaching and with the help of the National research School of Cultural History she formalized the national network in oral history.
In 1987, her dissertation on the Jewish poor of Amsterdam, 1900-1940 (Amsterdam 1987, Wayne State UP 1994; Suhrkamp, 1994) introduced a critical revision of the then-dominant historiography of the modernization and assimilation of poor Jews. Fascinated by trauma stories and the life story approach, and helping to set up the expanding international oral history network, she published Water and Memory on the memories of the Netherlands floods of 1953.
Publishing books and editing volumes that have shaped oral history is the main thread running through her academic career. As editor since 2001 she is co-responsible for the publication of many volumes and more are in preparation. Themes are totalitarianism, subjectivity, trauma, the transmission of stories. She was fellow at the Remarque Center in New York, and During the academic year 2010-2011 she was asked to collaborate the CNRS/NYU memory project, rethinking 'the representation of war' in collaboration with the September 11 Museum (New York) and with a grant of the Memorial de Caen (France).
Yearly she teaches a PhD-course on oral history at the Dutch National Research School of Cultural History (Huizinga) that is being attended by doctoral students and post-docs from many countries.
The last ten years she interviewed on life in concentration camps and recorded interviews with survivors of Auschwitz and Mauthausen in international projects.
In 2002, she started a project with survivors of Srebrenica, which brought a major international attention as an oral historian of trauma. The book detailing the Srebrenica story was published first in Dutch, then in Bosnian, and an English translation. The American edition got major public attention and the book appeared in paperback in 2015. She lectured widely in the US and participated in several publication projects. Her article on Bosnia in the volume Oral History on the Edge (Oxford University Press 2014, ed S. Sloane, M. Cave) is part of a collection that got the price of the American Oral History Society 2015
Since 2008, she has recorded life stories around the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich, including survivors of Sobibor and co-plaintiffs in the trial. The results have been published as www.lategevolgenvansobibor.nl.
As a result of her work she is public speaker on themes as 'the holocaust', 'Jewish history' and 'trauma and memory'. She will give the opening keynote in April 2016 at the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation.
In 2017 she will publish a biography of Aleksandr (Sasha) Pechersky, the leader of the uprising of Sobibor who became after his return to his hometown Rostov on Don the victim of the Stalinist antisemitic purges. She has been using material from archives all over the world and she traveled to people who knew about his history. At the moment the research is in collaboration with Foundation Sobibor, and the work is sponsored by the Rabbi Israel Miller Fund of the Jewish Claims Conference. There have been many more sponsors.
She is member of the advisory board of Stumbling Rocks, Zeeland (Struikelstenen, Zeeland)
In 2015 she started to co-work on refugee stories together with ‘unknown singular’ a project that involves refugees in doing life stories. She was member of the expert team and co-organized a major international conference on the theme. The project will be continued as an effort to connect various local archives and the creation of connections in databases.
In 2016 she became chair of the national Commission inquiring forced adoption and the experiences of mothers who were ‘forced’ to give up their babies committed by the Ministry of Justice and Safety. Also in 2016 she became emerita.
See the link for the curriculum vitae and publications of prof. dr. Selma Leydesdorff