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Answerability as Bearing Witness: Mikhail M. Bakhtin on Shoah

Answerability as Bearing Witness: Mikhail M. Bakhtin on Shoah
Fujimaki Mitsuhiro
This paper addresses the question of Communication ethics by problematizing the nature of representation. Communication ethics have to do with the way a relationship between the self and the Other is formulated in representation. The author believesthat the discipline of communication studies has not adequately dealt with representation, and that communication studies would benefit from following the path of Claude Lanzmann[s Shoah, a film on the Holocaust which elaborates ethical questions. This paper takes Shoah as a case study in order to see how Lanzmann challenges the nature of representation and attempts to recuperate the Other. Theauthor also finds dialogism, the perspective of Mikhail Bakhtin, useful to foreground Lanzmann[s work, and so this paper incorporates Bakhtin[s dialogism into its analysis of Shoah. The first part of the paper addresses the problem of representation in which the voice of the Other is e#aced into the economy of representation. The paper[s second part takes up how the voice of the Other can be insinuatedinto the economy of representation. Keywords: Communication ethics, the self, the Other, Claude Lanzmann, Shoah, Mikhail Bakhtin, dialogism, the Holocaust, witness, answerability

An encounter with the Other has been one of the primary themes of communication studies, as the term, communication, inherently presupposes those with whom the self has contact with. We, communication scholars, havebeen preoccupied with various representations in which we believe we can find the way the self can encounter with the Other. For example, those



representations include primarily historical materials and statistical result. With historical materials, we believe we can restore the oppressed people[s voice, the Other, as documented in those materials. With statistics, we believe wecan find some objective di#erences of culture in which the Other appears. However, we have not yet problematized the way we believe the self can encounter with the Other in those representations, that is, the economy of representation by which the way we encounter the Other is structured. In other words, we tend to have faith in what is represented as, for example, historical materials, andstatistics, without questioning the way the Other is represented in them. The Other is believed to be located in representations, but the way the Other is located in representation is never questioned. For example, the focus of inquiry in intercultural communication has been on an encounter with the Other, but it has never questioned the way the Other is mediated in representation. This tendency isconspicuous when we turn to the way an ethical command for an encounter with the Other is suggested and idealized in intercultural communication research. Martin and Nakayama 1997 suggest ethical commands for intercultural communication that: “Learn to listen to the voice of others. . . . Learn to respect the Other. . . . Strive for empathy” p. 272 . Also, the naive celebration of multiculturalism asan ideal paradigm gives up inquiry of communication studies, because the ethical solution, which intercultural researchers desire, is only to wait for a multicultural society to come1 . Furthermore, ethics, conceived in intercultural communication research, presuppose the Other as an independent entity being separate from a relationship between the Other and representation2 . In this paper, Iwould like to o#er an exemplary case study in which the economy of representation is at issue, and in which an encounter with the Other is brought into ethical question by

Answerability as Bearing Witness: Mikhail M. Bakhtin on Shoah

using Shoah, a film of the Holocaust. Shoah concerns the memory of the Other and attempts to recuperate the Other in cinematic representation. I hope to...
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