Laine Newman, “‘A Spark of Freedom’: Archiving and Activating Intergenerational Trauma Through Creative Practice”

Inspired by Holocaust survivor and Newman’s grandfather Dovid Zisman’s poetry and performance work, Newman’s project offers a particularly unique combination of personal history and archival research, with rich interdisciplinary potential in the fields of performance historiography, trauma performance, poetry, social justice, and intergenerational queer Holocaust stories.

Newman’s project centers on several questions that deftly encompass past, present, and future: “How does creative practice impact and map trauma? How is this consumed and received intergenerationally? And how might these creative works impact future conceptions of social justice, equity, and activism?” In addition to close readings of her grandfather’s poems, Newman will travel to Warsaw this summer to work in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute, where she will research Yiddish poetry and the role art played in resistance efforts, then and now. Beyond this traditional archival research, Newman’s project also involves the documentation of oral histories from queer third generation Holocaust survivors, which will be featured in a documentary film to be completed in 2019. The film will not only draw upon Newman’s creative interests in directing documentary film but also expand her examination of the intersections of activism and creative practice as inspired by her grandfather’s work.

The Scholarship Committee was particularly struck by Newman’s scholarly motivation and the comprehensiveness of the proposal, even going so far as to note her intention to study Yiddish to assist in deeper understanding of archival documents and her grandfather’s poetry. The proposal and the project reflect Newman’s clear and deep interest in offering new historical and geographic lenses for considering performance. Moreover, the project’s interdisciplinary and intersectional interests demonstrate that, in the words of her referee, Newman is “fiercely committed to equity in the field.”

Indeed, the committee felt Newman is well-suited to tackle this project, as it seems a natural extension of Newman’s doctoral dissertation that examined queer geographies and the ways that what Newman calls “placefulness” confronts the erasure of histories and gives import to specific geographies. According to her referee, Newman’s dissertation research “inaugurates new avenues of scholarship in queer theory, artists’ access to performance space, equity, and arts programming” and is “powerful” and “beautifully written.”  Moreover, she has already made significant strides in this avenue of research toward this project, with presentations, translations, and digitizations of relevant sources. The committee was particularly impressed with Newman’s ambitious overall goal of using this archival research to ultimately create a multi-platform project that includes poetry translation, the documentary, a roundtable, and a scholarly article. While firmly grounded in scholarly rigor and research, the project is also clearly a powerful labor of love, a deeply personal project that considers the ways artistic practice and performance live in and beyond the archive, inspiring personal and public activism on multiple levels and in diverse forms.