Jan 27, 2021
Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with Laura Levitt @llevitttemple about her book, The Objects That Remain.
On a November evening in 1989, Laura Levitt was raped in her own bed. Her landlord heard the assault taking place and called 911, but the police arrived too late to apprehend Laura’s attacker. When they left, investigators took items with them—a pair of sweatpants, the bedclothes—and a rape exam was performed at the hospital. However, this evidence was never processed.
Decades later, Laura returns to these objects, viewing them not as clues that will lead to the identification of her assailant but rather as a means of engaging traumatic legacies writ large.
The Objects That Remain is equal parts personal memoir and fascinating examination of the ways in which the material remains of violent crimes inform our experience of, and thinking about, trauma and loss. Considering artifacts in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and evidence in police storage facilities across the country, Laura’s story moves between intimate trauma, the story of an unsolved rape, and genocide. Throughout, she asks what it might mean to do justice to these violent pasts outside the juridical system or through historical empiricism, which are the dominant ways in which we think about evidence from violent crimes and other highly traumatic events.
Over the course of her investigation, the author reveals how these objects that remain and the stories that surround them enable forms of intimacy. In this way, she models for us a different kind of reckoning, where justice is an animating process of telling and holding.
Laura Levitt is Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies and Gender at Temple University where she has chaired the Religion Department and directed both the Jewish Studies and the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Programs.