- Department of Near Eastern Studies
- Near Eastern Studies Program
Aomar Boum is Professor and Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Department of History and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. A historical anthropologist, Boum is interested in the place of religious and ethnic minorities such as Jews, Baha’is, Shias and Christian in post-independence Middle Eastern and North African nation states. He is the author of Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco (Stanford University Press, 2013), co-editor of Wartime North Africa: A Documentary history, 1934-1950 (Stanford University Press, 2022) and author of the graphic history: Undesirables: A Holocaust Journey to North Africa (Stanford University Press, 2023).
In the last decade, graphic memoirs and novels have emerged as a significant form of historical (re)writing of past narratives and events. The medium of comics and its use of chronologically ordered panels allows the reader to create meanings through the combination of image and text. I argue for the use of graphic memoirs to re-construct the history of Saharan Vichy camps. I contend that in the larger context of an anthropology of genocide and a North African history of WWII and the Holocaust, graphic memoirs could be seen retroactive ethnographic accounts where witnessing takes place through seeing guided by the archive. In this talk I present a collaborative graphic narrative based on a unique style of art highlighting the impact of WWII outside of Europe through the story of a German refugee in North Africa. Hans, the main character, is a composite representing the experiences of several historical figures. I note that the use of images as a form of Holocaust writing, starting with Maus, is a call to seeing and therefore remembering through witnessing the trauma of detainees of labor and internment Vichy camps in the Sahara between 1940 and 1945.