Mapping memories, charting empathy

Authors: Piera Rossetto*, University of Graz _ Centre for Jewish Studies
Topics: Qualitative Research
Keywords: deep mapping, memories, representation, Jews, displacement
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper deals with the performances of memories and identities by Jews from Arab-Muslim countries who forcedly left their homes between 1950s and 1970s following postcolonial tensions, the rise of Arab nationalism and the consequences of the Six-Day War. These are stories difficult to tell for those who directly experienced displacement, loss and hardships across the Mediterranean. But they are also stories difficult to “re-tell” for scholars trying to make sense of their inherent complexity and heterogeneity and to transmit them to a larger public, often frightened by those who now cross the same sea. Is “mapping” a suitable and effective research approach to deal with stories that still represent a highly debated issue in the context of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East? Is it at all possible to measure its suitability and effectiveness? Concerning suitability, I will briefly recall the journey that took me from the sketch of the port of Tripoli that a Jew born in the city made for me during an interview, to the discovery of “deep mapping” both as a process and a tool carrying the potential to establish heterogeneity as a meaningful category of interpretation. Regarding effectiveness, I argue that we should consider if mapping allows the larger public as well as the story-(re)tellers to reach not only virtually but also empathically the many là-bas (“down-there”) that no longer exist (in terms of tangible spaces but also socio-cultural ties), thus building bridges between past and present difficult stories of crossing the sea.

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