Listening: From Fragmented Migration Trajectories to Constellations of Memories

Piera Rossetto, University of Graz

Between 1948 and 1952, almost ninety per cent of the Jewish population of Libya left the country to settle in the newly established State of Israel. This migratory phenomenon has been long portrayed as perfectly fitting into the—by now much criticised—narrative of the ‘ingathering of the exiles’ promoted by political Zionism. However, as personal recollections prove, even when ideological and religious factors played a major role in the decision to leave, other more prosaic, banal, and private elements—such as familial ties or simply fate—came into play. Moreover, beside its tendency to subsume individual destinies into a single, homogeneous trajectory, this grand narrative fails to account—as Libya is concerned—for the 6,000 Jews who chose not to leave but to remain in the country; for those who left for Israel but later returned to Libya; for those who settled elsewhere. How can scholars of Jewish migrations from the MENA region make sense of the fragmentated nature of these migration trajectories? How can the inherent complexity and heterogeneity of this phenomenon be interpreted? Indeed, these migrations became a thornier issue due to the political load they were charged with in the last decades. This paper advocates to bring “the art of listening” (Back 2007) back into scholarship on Jewish migrations from the MENA region and demonstrates that research-creation practices can facilitate this process. Listening—the paper argues—enriches network analysis theory in producing a more nuanced and inclusive account of migration trajectories. More specifically, it provides the researcher a privileged position to observe the way migrants ‘put things together,’ how they draw ‘constellations of memories’ from fragmented migration trajectories.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 109. Rethinking the Jewish Exodus from Arab Countries: A Network Perspective