DISRUPTED HISTORIES PROJECT RESEARCHERS:
Broken Lives, Silenced Memories: reappropriations of the past among the Jews of Egypt and Islamic Countries
Michèle Baussant (Principal Investigator), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Université Paris Nanterre
This communication explores the ways in which the memories of the disappearance of most Jewish communities in Islamic countries have been reframed. Today some authors regard the history of these communities as reduced to mere fragments of personal memories shared in small family circles. Yet this history has received renewed attention of late in academic circles, Jewish associations, and various national and transnational public spheres. In this communication, I will focus on the specific example of the Jews of Egypt in order to understand how representations of the past and memory are constructed, spread, and transformed in the present, at the crossroads of public uses of the past, shared memories, and the history of historians. Does the past serve as a basis for recreating solidarities among people? Or, on the contrary, does it feed rejection and disaffiliation, in particular vis-à-vis the group or groups with which individuals identify? And if so, which past is chosen? I will compare two different sets of sources analyzed over the long term. The first set deals with shaping the narrative around loss into a political cause demanding refugee status for Jews from Islamic countries, on a national and transnational level and in the political, activist, and academic spheres. The second corpus focuses on Egyptian Jewish associations in France and Israel founded in the wake of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in April 1979. They are dedicated to reaffirming Egyptian Jews’ collective identity and distinct history rooted in their cultural and religious heritage.
Disrupting Memory, Recovering History; or, the Delicate Balance Between Life and Evidence
Lindsey Dodd (Co-Investigator), University of Huddersfield, Department of History
All historians seek, in one way or another, to recover the events of the past. Traditionally this was done via archival sources, but memory sources – oral histories – are an alternative. One of the aims of this project is to understand the ways in which oral histories refract and revise accounts based on written archives. Yet as Portelli stated, in oral history, the ‘relevant historical fact, more than the event itself, is memory’. When we try to bring History into dialogue with memory, what happens?
I will argue that by recovering history using archival sources to underpin memory, we risk disrupting memories, composed over years and embedded deeply in meaningful interpersonal relationships. This paper draws on three interviews I conducted on the evacuation of French children during the Second World War from the Paris region to the Creuse. In each case, I located each child’s fiche d’évacuation in the archives: the card documenting in scant terms personal information such as the dates of their arrival and departure, and their domicile while evacuated. While these items of institutional historical evidence provide us with factual outlines of events, they are inadequate in explanatory terms: they cannot tell us why certain things happened, only that they happened. Furthermore, bringing together fragments of documentary evidence with fragments of lives lived and recounted is a risky strategy: it may provoke psychological disruption by revealing unknown or unpalatable details, create more mysteries than it can solve, and give rise to ethical problems of interpretation. In short, ‘memory truth’ may sit badly alongside ‘archival truth’. It is my contention that the ownership of the past is necessarily multiple; there are different ‘regimes of truth’ at work here, and in some cases, we may need to let the self-histories, the self-truths of the past rest undisturbed, despite the exigencies of historiographical practice.
Encouraging the emergence of different interpretations of Portuguese colonisation for a common post-colonial future
Irène Dos Santos (Co-Investigator), Centre National de la Recheche Scientifique et Université Paris Diderot.
In Portugal, a former imperial European power dominated by an ill-considered colonial era build around imperial nostalgia, civil society has recently began to think critically about colonialism. This paper seeks to analyze when the rupture with the official nostalgic hegemonic narrative occurred by bringing to the fore individual and family recollections perceived as “clandestine” or even “taboo”. Our discussion will be based on an ethnographic research undertaken in Lisbon with families returning from former African colonies, to where some members have recently re-emigrated in the context of professional mobility (Angola). It will also focus on people who regularly travel to and from the countries of the former Portuguese Empire (Portugal-Angola-Brazil). Our objective is to question how these different recollections that are both informal and non-institutional initiate dialogue with each other and with official and institutional recollections. What is the impact of these transnational connections on memory reconstructions across different levels? Toward what common future do these recollections work?
Moving up North: Disrupted Histories of the Black Mediterranean Olivette Otele (Co-Investigator), Bath Spa University, Field of Culture and Environment (History)
The views Europe and France in particular had about the Mediterranean started to emerge at a time when France was defining its national identity as a Republic that had got rid of the monarchy. The 19th century was a time when Britain and France tried to suppress the imperial aspirations of a number of kingdoms in the eastern part of Europe (Westphalia, Prussia, Austria, etc.). The Mediterranean as well as the Atlantic and the India Ocean were the terrain for fierce military and trading battles between the countries. The Mediterranean region in particular, one of France’s oldest trading partners reflected changes in the way power shifted amongst those three countries. The Mediterranean as a concept was explored extensively by French academics. The debate about the concept is still on-going. In order to expand the premises of the concept, this presentation will move from the historical overview with its imperial overtones to examples of Black Mediterraneans as Afro-Europeans before delving into specific contemporary and disrupted Black Mediterranean histories.
Sound and (hi)story in Damara / ≠Nūkhoen pasts, from Basel to west Namibia
Sian Sullivan (Principal Investigator and Project Coordinator), Bath Spa University, Research Centre for Environmental Humanities, UK, and Welhemina Suro Ganuses, Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia
In an archive in Basel, Switzerland, sits a series of neatly written transcripts in Khoekhoegowab, the language spoken by Damara / ≠Nūkhoen people in Namibia. Although the identity of the transcribers is often obscure, reflecting a decades-long history of work that is itself disrupted, the source of the texts is clear: a collection of some 11 cassettes containing recordings of Damara and Nama stories, songs and life histories, made in 1953-54 by the German linguists, Ernst and Ruth Dammann. Each recording opens with a description in the authoritative spoken German of Ernst Dammann. He identifies the speaker(s) and the content of their contribution in a manner hard to hear without summoning images of Namibia’s German colonial past. But the stories and songs that follow take us into a world often very different to that understood by modern European colonial structuring. This is a world where a mythical sun-sheep (sore-gus) interacts with a cast of other agency-enacting animal-persons; where the often fearsome character ||Gâuab deceives human actors and is conveniently transformed into Satan by evangelical missionaries; and where entertaining stories of the ancestor-trickster-hero Haiseb remind us of the mysterious and unpredictable, as well as the often unfathomable and funny, natures of existence. The Dammann recordings and their transcripts also sometimes offer windows to past disruptive experiences: the displacements, conflicts and jealousies that linger from historical disruptions in central and west Namibia associated with expansionary pastoralist pressure, coupled with the northwards and Atlantic coast openings of the British Cape Colony frontier.
The recordings and their transcripts are hard to approach without culturally-specific reference points to hook them to and interpret them with. This paper thus builds on a longterm and multifaceted listening collaboration between an anthropologist (Sian Sullivan) and a ≠Nūkhoen woman from rural west Namibia (Suro Ganuses) to reflect in particular on two main dimensions:
1) the familiarity, and thus continuity, of (some of the) songs, sounds and stories in the Basel Dammann archive, as experienced in a collaborative research visit to the archive at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien in November 2017;
and 2) some ways in which on-site oral history research conducted through field research in a connected project (www.futurepasts.net) both refracts formal historical record for the area and assists with understanding threads of content in the Dammann archive.
Overall the paper highlights both the heterogeneity that exists in hearing and reading historically archived texts in the present; and the liveliness that recounted memories in remembered places may bring to historical record pertaining to the west Namibian context.
Disrupted Histories, Re-negotiated Past: the Current Reconstruction of the Departure of the Jews of Egypt between 1948 and 1967
Liat Alon (Ben Gurion University)
Over the past decade Israeli society is witnessing a reawakening of the discourse regarding the acceptance (or rejection) of Jewish immigrants from Muslim countries in it following its establishment in 1948. In light of this reawakening, a clear shift in the narrative and memories of Jewish life in Muslim Middle Eastern Societies is also unfolding in front of our eyes. The representation and construction of the memories of Jewish life in general and of the departure of the members of these Jewish communities in particular is being dramatically represented and reconstructed. In this paper, I will try to follow the roots of this change – both the conscious policy set by decision makers leading Israeli politics today, and the unconscious changes in people’s perspectives almost 7 decades after their departure. I will focus on the Jewish Egyptian case study, and present both journalistic and educational materials as well as base personal interviews with former members of the community describing their lives there, their memories of its and their departure.
Oral testimonies, ‘lost’ histories & re-thinking Muslim migrant communities in post-war Britain: a rural case study
Sarah Hackett, Bath Spa University, Field of Culture and Environment (History)
This paper reveals how oral history can capture otherwise undocumented histories of Muslim minorities in post-war Britain. It focuses on the specific example of Muslim migrant communities in rural Wiltshire, a county chosen for its diverse, visible and under-researched Muslim populations, which includes Britain’s largest Moroccan community outside of London. Focusing on various areas, including employment, neighbourhood formation, education, community cohesion, integration, and religious practice and recognition, this paper shows how written archival sources do not do justice to Wiltshire’s Muslims’ histories of migration, settlement and integration. The Muslim populations discussed include Moroccans in Trowbridge, Pakistanis in Devizes, Bangladeshis in Salisbury, and Turks in Melksham. The paper argues that written archival sources offer only a partial history of these communities and that, without oral history, their stories risk remaining an invisible aspect of Britain’s wider immigration history. Moreover, not only do these oral testimonies allow us to recover ‘lost’ histories, but they also challenge us to re-think and revise our understanding of post-war Muslim migrant experiences and integration in post-war Britain.
Between silenced memories, meaningless heritage and broken traditions? Post-war population transfer from Istria, ex-Yugoslavia
Katja Hrobat Virloget, Head of Institute for Intercultural Studies University of Primorska, Slovenia, Faculty of Humanities
When Yugoslavia gained the nationally mixed territory of Istria after WWII, 90% of the mainly Italian-speaking population emigrated, mostly from urban environments, leaving behind ‘ghost towns’ settled by people from contemporary Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia. In this historical moment the ‘other’ became represented by an Italian minority with their silenced memories due to the collective criminalization for war crimes. Only fifty years later, however, the disintegration of the Yugoslavian state and the establishment of the new Slovenian state, became the context for the formation of new ‘others’ from the those now ex-Yugoslavians who had settled the emptied spaces formed of Italian post-war emigration.
A number of scholars discuss the ‘Istrian exodus’ in a broader framework of the massive population transfers in Central and Eastern European resulting from the allies’ policies in the post-WW II period when ethnic homogenization of nation states was considered the only possibility to prevent violence and assure peace and stability. Recently Pamela Ballinger offered an alternative approach by interpreting the Istrian ‘exodus’ as a (post)imperial process accompanying the defeat of fascism through which Italy lost its newly acquired Balkan and African territories. Deriving from the problem of an almost total exchange of population in the urban environments of Istria the paper discusses questions related to memory, its link to heritage valorisation and place attachment. The paper asks how today’s different (ethnic) groups of inhabitants relate to this contested past and how they find ways of cohabiting with their divided memories in suddenly emptied and resettled spaces? In particular, what kind of processes can be observed in a society that is ethnically homogenized according to contemporary nationalization processes that only a half century later (with the disintegration of Yugoslavia) is subject to another nationalization process in which the previous ‘us’ becomes the new ‘other’?
The presentation thus highlights contested memories relating to the post WWII ‘Istrian exodus’ which completely changed the ethnic, social and cultural face of Istria and which remain silenced in the now dominant Slovenian memory. Memories recorded through oral histories indicate that the new post-WWII Yugoslav identity was so fragile that already ‘Yugoslavians’ were perceived as foreigners by both Slovenian and Italian ‘natives’ and Slovenian immigrants in Istria. Linking heritage to memory, then, I will address the problem of the decaying Istrian heritage, which presents an identity anchor to the remaining Italian minority, but has no meaning for a now majority immigrant population. In this context the notion of ‘disrupted histories’ can be brought to bear on issues of the formation of collective memories, heritages, traditions, identities, place attachment and cohabitation. In doing so it can illuminate how processes of (non)heritagisation, appropriation and silencing reflect complex and shifting relations of power.
Beneath the surface of the waterways
Jodie Matthews, University of Huddersfield, Department of English Literature
In England and Wales, one is never far from a canal. For many, they have become an almost ubiquitous yet unnoticed feature of our urban and rural landscapes. The fact that canals are desirable to developers and urban regeneration schemes to form a watery landscape, that they are used by some as ‘linear parks’, that they are spaces of leisure and domicile, that we live, work and travel beside them, makes them very much part of our present. Despite the heritage efforts of the Canal & River Trust, though, the role of the waterways in historical narratives, and the lives of people who lived and worked on the canals, are often forgotten amongst public audiences. This paper explores the ways in which forgotten histories, of women and children, of wartime canal workers, of the place of the waterways in the nation’s consciousness are retrieved from the murky depths. It considers the contested nature of this research, riven as it is by academic/professional/public faultlines, and the sense of ownership of memory that work in this area engenders.
ADDITIONAL PARTICIPANTS and background
Lorna Brunstein, installation artist exploring memory, loss and inherited trauma.
Jack Crangle, I am a final year PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. My thesis uses oral history to research immigrant communities in twentieth century Northern Ireland. I am especially interested in how ‘other’ communities fitted into a bifurcated society characterised by division and conflict, and how internal divisions affected the experience of migration.
Mike Hannis, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities (Ethics and Sustainability), Research Centre for Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University.
With an academic background in environmental ethics and political theory, Mike’s recent publications include a research monograph entitled Freedom and Environment: autonomy, flourishing and the political philosophy of sustainability (Routledge 2015). He is currently working on ethics-related strands of the interdisciplinary AHRC-funded Future Pasts project (www.futurepasts.net), led from Bath Spa by Sian Sullivan.
Alison Hems, Subject Leader for Humanities, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University.
Thomas Kampe, Senior Lecturer in Movement, Bath Spa University (Writing and Performance).
Thomas is currently organising an event through the ‘Creative Corporealities Research Group’ at BSU called Beyond Forgetting 1938- 2018. This consists of a series of presentations and panel discussion on historical and contemporary migration and exile and performing arts cultures. The event will be run concurrently with the opening of the video-dance installation ‘displaced/displayed’ which refers to the diasporic work of Viennese choreographer Gertrud Bodenwieser. Invited speakers will be: Marian Malet who will talk about the work of Bodenwieser dancer Litz Pisk, the Viennese artist who was the leading pedagogue for Movement for Actors in the UK after WWII, and who taught interdisciplinary arts practice at Corsham Court (now part of BSU) in the 1950s; Julia Pascal, writer and director who will talk about her work on The Holocaust Trilogy and refer to the play ‘Theresa’ which was based on the hidden histories of British collaboration with the Nazi authorities on the Island of Guernsey in deporting foreign Jews from the Channel Islands; and Ruth Posner, actress, dancer and survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto who came to the UK after the end of WWII and worked with leading dance and theatre companies in the UK, collaborating with Kampe in several performance projects for over a decade.
Marie-Claire Lavabre, Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris and Keynote Speaker for public lecture preceding the workshop.
Marie-Claire Lavabre is a well-known Professor of Sociology specialising in public memory and the politics of the past, who has authored books concerning political uses of the past in contemporary France (2017), Europe and its representations of the past (2008), the sociology of Communist memory (2004) and the social movement politics of 1968 (1998).
Benjamin Neimark, Lecturer in Human Geography and Political Ecology at the Lancaster Environment Centre.
Ben is passionate about just socio-economic, political and ecological futures in the global south. His research concerns the future of work, agrarian change and commodity chains in the green/blue and bio-economy. He is a human geographer and political ecologist in the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University and helps run a global political ecology network (POLLEN) and has a particular geographical foci, including the African countries of Madagascar, Mozambique, and Mali.
Filippo Nereo is a principal lecturer at Coventry University and a member of the university’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations. He is interested in languages, identity and migration/integration. His PhD was on the post-Second World War population transfers in Central Europe.
Yvonne Orengo, Communications and project manager with particular expertise in Madagascar in contexts of displacement.
Razia Paveen, recently gained her PhD in history at the Univ. of Huddersfield on food, song and diasporic identity among Pakistani women in Yorkshire. She’s just been nominated for the Phillip Abrams 2018 Prize in sociology for her book Recipes and Songs: An Analysis of Cultural Practices from South Asia published with Palgrave Macmillan.
Pennie Quinton, PhD student, King’s College London, Global Health and Social Development – conducting PhD research on Health perceptions of Palestinian women affected by the Israeli State house demolitions and land seizures in the West Bank.
My research examines the impact of Israeli house demolitions and land seizure on Palestinian women’s self-perceived health and wellbeing and their capability to lead lives they value. The term ‘lives they value’ refers to a core characteristic of the capability approach where the focus and measurement of capability evaluates what people are effectively able to do and to be, that is, their capabilities and functioning (Sen, 2009; Robeyns, 2003). This research seeks to understand the impact of Israeli house demolitions and land seizures on various levels of experience, namely the individual with a focus on bodily and mental functioning, the family and the wider community. Thereby, I aim to gain a broader understanding how health and wellbeing are conceived within a broader socio-political environment This trajectory follows the writings of Veena Das, who establishes similar connections within the narratives of her informants between their mental state and well-being, their social environment and their political context (Das, 2015). While previous studies have shown that adults who were exposed to house demolition showed higher levels of anxiety, depression, and paranoiac symptoms (Punamäki, 1986), I aim to observe the strategies Palestinian women employ to maintain their well-being when faced with the threat of loss of home by focusing on the following objectives:
(i) To examine the effect of Israeli house demolitions and land seizures on Palestinian women’s perceptions of their capabilities for health and well-being;
(ii) The impact of house demolition and land seizure on Palestinian women’s perceptions of their capabilities to safe guard the well–being of their family;
(iii) To explore how the women (a) view Israeli house demolitions and land seizure as part of their experience of being a West Bank Palestinian and (b) the effect of the demolitions and land seizure on the well-being of their community.
Richard White, Senior Lecturer in Media Practice, Bath Spa University.