French returns after academic leave to research the Holocaust symbols

Dr. Sandra French-School of Communication

By Kevin Stump

Dr. Sandra French is back in the classroom this semester following a brief hiatus to pursue scholarly research on the Holocaust symbols.

Last summer, French took a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. as part of the Mandel Center's Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar. French was among 20 scholars participating in the seminar, whose theme was "After the Holocaust: Teaching the Post-war World."

“At the very beginning of my faculty development leave, I got to be a student all over again,” French said. “We read about 600 pages of holocaust-related material, and then we spent about a week, 8 hours a day, in a classroom.”

After learning about all the research materials she could take advantage of, French spent the latter part of the semester at home, furthering her own research into the Holocaust; specifically what Germany is doing, and how they position the monuments related to the Holocaust in Berlin. As the only communications scholar at this seminar, French hopes that this will help her put a unique angle on her research.

“What I did bring, I think is a notion of questioning the kind of impact that monuments and memorials have on society, which is something that not a lot of those other disciplines do, French said. “What I’m most interested in, is what does it mean to set up a concentration camp as a tourism site?”

French brought up Auschwitz as an example. Two years ago, a 20-year-old girl posted a selfie of herself smiling at Auschwitz, which has become something of a tourism site. Not even a month later, she was blasted by comments about how wrong what she had done was. French’s research wants to answer the questions of what makes actions like this viewed as inappropriate, and what it means to turn these places into tourism sites.

According to SOC Talk, Spring 2016 edition, French hopes to utilize what she learned in the seminar during the Spring 2017 semester, for her COMS 414 class, Critical Analysis of Public Discourse, where students will study the challenge of representing the Holocaust to future generations. 

Oct 4, 2016
School of Communication