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Date: 2013
Abstract: In the past few decades, Poland has seen a growing number of attempts to reclaim its Jewish past through traditional forms such as historiographic revision, heritage preservation, and monument building. But a unique new mode of artistic, performative, often participatory “memory work” has been emerging alongside these conventional forms, growing in its prevalence and increasingly catching the public eye. This new genre of memorial intervention is characterized by its fast-moving, youthful, innovative forms and nontraditional venues and its socially appealing, dialogic, and digitally networked character as opposed to a prior generation of top-down, slow moving, ethnically segregated, mono-vocal styles. It also responds to the harsh historical realities brought to light by scholars of the Jewish-Polish past with a mandate for healing. This article maps the landscape of this new genre of commemoration projects, identifying their core features and investigating their anatomy via three case studies: Rafał Betlejewski’s I Miss You Jew!; Public Movement’s Spring in Warsaw; and Yael Bartana’s Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland. Analyzing their temporalities, scopes, modalities and ambiences, as well as the new visions for mutual identification and affiliation that they offer Poles and Jews, we approach these performances not as representations, but rather as embodied experiences that stage and invite participation in “repertoires” of cultural memory. Different from simple reenactments, this new approach may be thought of as a subjunctive politics of history—a “what if” proposition that plays with reimagining and recombining a range of Jewish and Polish memories, present-day realities, and future aspirations.
Date: 2016
Abstract: Focusing on three contemporary grassroots initiatives of preserving Jewish heritage and commemorating Jews in Belarus, namely, the Jewish Museum in Minsk, Ada Raǐchonak’s private museum of regional heritage in Hermanovichi, and the initiative of erecting the monument of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in Hlybokae, the present article discusses how local efforts to commemorate Jews and preserve Jewish heritage tap into the culture of political dissent, Belarus’s international relations, and the larger project of redefining the Belarusian national identity. Looking at the way these memorial interventions frame Jewish legacy within a Belarusian national narrative, the article concentrates in particular on the institution of the public historian and the small, informal social networks used to operate under a repressive regime. Incorporating the multicultural legacy of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into the canon of Belarusian national heritage and recognizing the contribution of ethnic minorities to the cultural landscape of Belarus, new memory projects devoted to Jewish history in Belarus mark a caesura in the country’s engagement with its ethnic Others and are also highly political. While the effort of filling in the gaps in national historiography and celebrating the cultural diversity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania overlaps in significant ways with the agenda of the anti-Lukashenka opposition, Jewish heritage in Belarus also resonates with the state authorities, who seek to instrumentalize it for their own vision of national unity.
Date: 2013