In the fall of 1944, my great-aunt, Emma Jonas, was transported from Berlin to the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt. While there, she was forced to work in a factory processing muscovite, a form of mica used in the German war industry. After Emma died in 1971, her daughter, my aunt, found an envelope among her mother’s effects containing broken slices of this mineral. In this talk, which is taken from a forthcoming book of essays about “elemental things,” I offer a context for these facts in an attempt to understand why Emma Jonas might have chosen to keep possession of these items from this very difficult period of her life.
Hugh Raffles is an anthropologist whose work explores relationships among people, animals, and things. His writing has appeared in academic and popular venues, including Granta, Public Culture, Natural History, Orion, American Ethnologist, the New York Times, and The Best American Essays.
Raffles is Professor of Anthropology and Director, Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography, and Social Thought at the New School for Social Research.
The Bernd Lambert Memorial Lecture Series, to be inaugurated in 2017, was established by the Cornell University Department of Anthropology in honor of one of its most distinguished faculty members. Bernd Lambert, an ethnographer of the Pacific Islands, joined the Cornell faculty in 1964. For over 50 years as both active and emeritus professor of anthropology, his research and teaching ranged widely from issues of kinship and social organization to myth and symbol. The Lambert lectures honor Prof. Lambert’s legacy by bringing similarly broad-minded scholars to the Cornell campus for a series of events that culminate in an evening lecture.
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