Susanne C. Knittel is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University. She holds a PhD in Italian and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, New York (2011). Her research centres on the question of how societies remember atrocities — specifically how they deal with the uncomfortable issues of guilt and responsibility — and what role literature, art, film, and other cultural representations play in this process. Her current project focuses on the contemporary cultural imagination of genocide and ecocide. Susanne explores how art and culture can help reveal the historical and structural links between violence against humans and violence against the environment that usually remain unseen.
Susanne teaches courses on 20th and 21st century European and North American literature, literary theory, cultural memory, perpetrator studies, ecocriticism, and posthumanism.
Her first book, The Historical Uncanny: Disability, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Holocaust Memory (Fordham University Press, 2015) is a comparative analysis of German and Italian Holocaust memory, focusing on the difficult memories of the Nazi “euthanasia” program and of Italian Fascist eugenic racism. In 2016, it was awarded Honorable Mention by Council of European Studies for the European Studies Book Award. The German translation, Unheimliche Geschichte: Grafeneck, Triest und die Politik der Holocausterinnerung was published with Transcript Verlag in 2018.
Her NWO-VENI project, “Faces of Evil" (2014-17), focused on the role and representation of perpetrators in contemporary memory culture. This project led to the publication, in 2020, of The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies, which she co-edited with Zachary J. Goldberg. She is the founder and director of the Perpetrator Studies Network, which connects scholars across the humanities, social sciences, law, and psychology, as well as curators, artists, and educators from Europe and around the world. She is editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed open access Journal of Perpetrator Research, which she co-founded in 2017 with Emiliano Perra and Ugur Ümit Üngör.
From 2016-2022 Susanne was a member of the Utrecht Young Academy, and served as its chair from 2017-2020. She is co-founder and, until 2022, was a board member of the Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo), an initiative of the Young Academies of the strategic alliance between UU, UMCU, TU Eindhoven and Wageningen University & Research that promotes and facilitates opportunities for unusual research collaborations with a view towards societal impact.