Anna Danilina

Anna Danilina is a historian at the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin. Her project investigates how bodies remember histories of violence, racism, and antisemitism – and how History can learn from Medicine and Neuroscience.

Anna Danilina is an interdisciplinary historian at the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University of Berlin. Her research focuses on the study of racism and antisemitism, the history of the body and Affect Studies, transnational history and colonialism, and the history of science and medicine. Thematically, she focuses on the critique of different forms of social exclusion and (right-wing) violence.

She studied Psychology, Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Political Science in Leipzig, Göttingen and at UC Berkeley. During her university years, she also worked at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and wrote her master’s thesis on Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory as critique.

Anna conducted her dissertation at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Technical University in Berlin. During her PhD, she was also a Visiting Scholar in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York. Her thesis on a history of the body and emotions of race, racism, and antisemitism in the Voelkisch movement, which she defended with summa cum laude in 2022, will be published by Wallstein publishing house in 2023.

Anna Danilina has received grants and fellowships from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Zeitlehren Foundation, the FAZIT Foundation, the German Historical Institute Washington, and the Max Planck Society. She has published on Critical Theory, the study of antisemitism, racism and race, on strategies of social exclusion, and within the History of Medicine.

Project description

Somatic memory of historical violence. Transgenerational epigenetics of trauma – the Shoah, antisemitism, and racism

The body remembers histories of violence, racism, and antisemitism, even when we forget them. Contained in the body, experiences of violence are passed on from the past to the present. Thus, the body can be conceived of as a historical archive, bearing witness to past injuries and derivative, present forms of injustice.

But how is this language of the body to be deciphered? To learn to interpret this somatic memory in social sciences, we need to turn to medicine and neuroscience. Research on transgenerational epigenetic effects of trauma yields differentiated accounts of how historical violence translates into somatic signatures, and how traumatic events can alter genetic transcription mechanisms over generations.

Anna's project aims to interpret the epigenetics of trauma as a history of the body, and to utilize biomedical studies for new concepts and methodologies to investigate a bodily memory in the social sciences. Conversely, the project analyzes how medical research influences social and political debates on the relation between racism and antisemitism, the Holocaust, genocide, and colonialism. Finally, it investigates the potentials and pitfalls in using genetic knowledge and concepts for the study of racism and antisemitism.

To these ends, the project is structured in four subsequent lines of inquiry. It combines
1) a History of Science of Eugenics, Genetics, and Epigenetics;
2) a Historical Discourse Analysis of how different affected groups use transgenerational epigenetics research and thus relate instances of historical violence based on antisemitism and racism;
3) a medical-anthropological approach to epigenetic mechanisms as somatic memory; and
4) a theory-political and self-critical evaluation of physiological approaches to race, racism and antisemitism.

Explore what we do

Confront the past

Combat antisemitism

Protect minorities

Strengthen democracy

Reinforce critical thinking

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