Module A: Beginning with Images. A Reflective Examination of Historical and Contemporary Images in Educational Work on Anti-Ziganism
This method is suitable for seminars for all age groups
Themes and goals
The anti-Ziganist antipathy (antipathy toward Sinti and Roma) behind certain forms of violence, actions, opinions and speech acts relies on certain mental images – much like the case with racist and anti-Semitic structures. These images have nothing to do with the actual people being described. Instead, they have very much to do with the influence of society on the people who use them. On the other hand, these images also have a strong impact on how the people in question define themselves. Some of these images have a positive connotation, while some are negative. Both are equally dangerous, because all stereotypes provide a basis for generalisations. Prejudices often develop over a very long period, becoming part of shared memory over centuries while continuing to evolve.
Essentially, all seminar participants have an idea not only what a “gypsy” is, but also what “Sinti and Roma” are. These notions can take different shapes for different people. Some feel a slight aversion, while others feel certain about their beliefs and vehemently defend them through personal experience (with neighbours, while taking public transportation, etc.). This usually goes hand in hand with a lack of knowledge about the different life situations of Roma in Europe, about historical and current forms of discrimination and about the socio-historical conditions of antipathy toward Sinti and Roma.
With this in mind, I have developed an image-based introduction to the seminars and workshops offered at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial about forms of anti-Ziganism throughout history and today. I have created a set of laminated photographs (letter-sized format) and reproductions, which I apply as described below. I also tell participants about the projected outlook of this method in general and how it can be used for other seminar formats and topics.
A successful start to a seminar is usually essential for creating an open and interested learning process within the group. Beginning a seminar by letting participants talk about their associations with pictures and photographs highlights how we share a collective archive of images in society that are negotiable. We question terminology, look at gaps in our knowledge and talk about our insecurities. This method stimulates participants to ask questions. People are encouraged to voice their expectations, doubts and confusion while talking about the images they have in their minds. Because this method encourages every participant to say something about a selected picture, it also offers the group the opportunity to become acquainted with each other. People have the chance to reflect on the photographs and reproductions through a critical analysis of sources. In what context and for whom was each photograph taken? What effect does it have on the beholder? What is represented in images, and what is not?