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Guardians of Memory?

 CPL Editions book launch:


by Valentina Pisanty with a preface by Michael Rothberg

Presentation on February 16 at 2:00 pm (EST)

Register for the event:

Panelists: Valentina Pisanty (University of Bergamo), Michael Rothberg (UCLA), Omer Bartov (Brown University), Manuela Consonni (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

“Historical writing should aspire to be democratic, by which I mean that it should be possible to check our statements from without, and that the reader be a party not only to the conclusions arrived at but also to the process that led to them.” Carlo Ginzburg

In her provocative book on memory of the Shoah, Valentina Pisanty asks: “What went wrong?” Why has the slogan “Never again” failed to prevent genocide, antisemitism, and racist violence? How has the public discourse on history been reduced to the sacralization of witness testimony; to the idea that collective memory can be induced through mandatory curricula and “Holocaust tourism”; to the proliferation of cinema stereotypes aimed not only at influencing the public but also institutional policies; or to the idea that decisions on historical matters can be entrusted to the justice system?  

What is the role of historians in a public environment increasingly dominated not only by distortions in all directions, but most egregiously, by a dogmatic notion of historical truth that is used as a tool of warfare by all sort of public figures for the most disparate ends? 

How is the work of historians affected by the disconnect between their imperfect and ever-evolving craft, and the absolute truths and grand-narrative increasingly deployed by institutions devoted to preserve public awareness of the past? 

This is the first of three meetings among scholars who tackle similar issues from different perspectives will focus on how the current social forms of Holocaust memorialization intersect with and affect the role of historians in the public sphere. 

The next two panels will focus on Holocaust history and film as main vehicle of popular culture, and the role of courts and the law in the debates on the past.  

Co-presenters: Italian Cultural Institute, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism.



by Valentina Pisanty with a preface by Michael Rothberg

About the book: “Valentina Pisanty’s The Guardians of Memory (CPL Editions, 2021) opens with a paradox and a question. The paradox derives from an empirical observation: that the very post-Cold War era that has constructed a widespread commemorative culture dedicated to the Holocaust has also been a period in which politics has experienced a rightward turn characterized by ever more virulent racism and racist violence. The question Pisanty poses involves interpreting this paradox: is this conjunction of a memory culture that understands itself as dedicated to tolerance and antiracism and a political culture that is trending racist merely a coincidence or is there a deeper causal connection to be found? Has a much-vaunted cosmopolitan Holocaust memory — with its linked slogans of “Never forget!” and “Never again!” — simply failed to prevent the rise of the right or, more darkly, might it even be implicated in that political turn?” With these words Michael Rothberg opens his preface to Pisanty’s book, giving an overview of her analysis and responding through his own exploration of similar topics in The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (Stanford University Press).

About the author: A scholar of Holocaust denial and racism, Valentina Pisanty is Professor of Semiotics at University of Bergamo. She is an expert in the areas of interpretive semiotics, narratology, political speech, rhetoric of racism, Holocaust denial, and memory. This book was originally published in Italian by Bompiani, Giunti Editore.

About Centro Primo Levi: In over twenty years of activity, Centro Primo Levi New York has established itself as a platform through which international audiences and the academia can access resources on Italian Jewish studies and current affairs. Our website promotes the presence of Italian Jewish studies in the American academia, regularly publishing translations of classic and cutting-edge scholarship.

How to get in touch: You can request a review copy by writing to: Sofia Quaglia, Visit CPL Editions at

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