Canberra: The Difficulties of Witnessing: Armin T. Wegner’s Shocking Magic Lantern Show

Australian National University
September 3, 2018 Monday
Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

This lecture focuses on the work of Armin T. Wegner (1886-1978), a German writer and human rights defender, who was stationed as a medical officer in the Ottoman empire during World War I. Witnessing the Ottomans' genocidal campaign against Armenians, Wegner attempted to attract international attention to the plight of Armenians through a series of publications, open letters, lectures, and magic lantern shows.

As an antecedent to the newsreel, the magic lantern show was an important turn-of-the-century medium for educating the public about significant events abroad. And, in an effort to invoke the horror of the mass killing and suffering, Wegner graphically detailed the atrocities and used his own and others' lantern slides to appeal to audiences for material aid and political intervention. The lecture enquires into the limitations of the lantern show as a medium for affecting change and asks broader questions about, what Wegner referred to as, 'the difficulties of witnessing.' 

Vanessa Agnew holds a position in English at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Her Enlightenment Orpheus: The Power of Music in Other Worlds (Oxford UP, 2008) won the Oscar Kenshur Prize for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the American Musicological Society's Lewis Lockwood Award. She co-edited Settler and Creole Reenactment (Palgrave, 2010), special issues of Re-thinking History 11 (2007) and Criticism 46 (2004), and book series Historical Reenactment (Palgrave) and Music in Society and Culture (Boydell and Brewer).

She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Australian Research Council, National Maritime Museum, American Philosophical Society, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and German Academic Exchange Service.

This lecture is part of The Magic Lantern in Australia and the World Conference, but it is open to the public for free, if you would like to attend other sessions please register via Eventbrite. For more information please visit program.

You may also like