Archives de catégorie : A propos/about

Reconstructing Loss: Jewish Spaces in the Middle East and Beyond

MESA 2021

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11/29/2021 | 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Most Jewish communities from the Middle East experienced a loss of their former homeland, the dissolution of community structures, and at times are even unable to return to their places of origin. This geographical and psychological separation lends memories and spaces of the past special significance. This panel proposes a framework for the experiences of remoteness that have shaped and are shaping Middle Eastern Jewish communities. While focusing on specific countries such as Egypt, Iran or the Italian diaspora, the panel will present how space–either its recollection or new formation–serves to constitute present identities and communities. Infrastructures that remained in the regions where Jews lived, that were built and inhabited by them, have not just material but also symbolic impact on how the former home is remembered. Spaces, buildings, and maps are representations of constantly morphing narratives of identity, in which different actors are involved with different objectives. Methodology The analysis is twofold: first, it focuses on former Jewish homes, graveyards or synagogues, and how they live on in the present. Secondly, it presents the discursive spaces that evolve when these spaces are visited from or recreated in the diaspora. Spatial structures formerly or newly assigned as “Jewish” are imbued with changing meanings over time. The discussion includes a historical background of the places under consideration, the circumstances of leaving and return, as well as interviews with individuals regarding their memories of and relation to particular spaces. The results point to multiple ways of how space is part of creating meaning from a distance, or a meaningful present in the diaspora. This will enable a better understanding of how communities of Middle Eastern Jews locate themselves in their new homelands, how and what they remember, including tensions arising from competing forms of remembrance and identification. The panel introduces a new approach to the historiography of Middle Eastern Jewish communities by looking at the strategies of dealing with loss as a form of agency in the process of coming to terms with the old and new homelands. In order to understand contemporary Middle Eastern Jewish identities, different sites should be included: besides the individuals who left, the socio-political dynamics in their former and new homelands are involved in inscribing different meanings to the sites under consideration, providing a bigger picture of the issues at stake in the process of identity and community formation across time and space.

Michele Baussant


Displaced memories without traces and traces of the past without memories: the legacies of Egyptian Jews in and out of Egypt We often assume that history begins with material traces and that these traces are the basis for asserting that something has happened. What occurs, however, when a population …Read More

Monica Mereu

University of Cagliari

Oudlājān Memories: from a Communitarian Neighbourhood to a Placeless City My contribution aspires to give a narrative form to the history of the internal migration of the Tehrani Jews, who used to live in the old Jewish quarter of Tehran (Oudlājān)  …Read More

Ariane Sadjed

Austrian Academy of Sciences

The Meaning of Space: Contested Histories of Jewish neighborhoods in Iran This paper deals with the meaning of space in constituting Iranian-Jewish history. I will approach it from two aspects: first, from the place of origin, that is where Jewish c …Read More

Piera Rossetto

University of Graz

Mind the Map: Locating Invisible Jewish Migrations

About the Proteus Project

Egyt, 2020 (Credits, Michèle Baussant)

This project stems from a longstanding dialogue between two researchers, Katja Hrobat Virloget and I, between research questions, which began several years ago. Since our discussion, in a Parisian café, during a research visit by Katja Hrobat Virloget, funded by the French Cultural Institute in Slovenia, we have been working together on an ongoing basis on silenced pasts and populations that have been displaced, replanted, replaced, or left behind. This collaboration led us to naturally embark on a program such as Proteus to pursue this work and imagine larger-scale projects with colleagues, permanent researchers, and young researchers.

The project deals with the effects of mass depopulations and repopulations following systemic changes – where the political, socio-economic system changes radically. Many studies are increasingly concerned with the massive displacement of populations due to wars and collapsing intra- and extra-European empires, traces and persistent effects of empires in nations in terms of domination, silences, or competing histories of separated nations and actors. However, few works studies have paid systematic attention to the crossed and parallel social constructions of the presence and absence of the other and, therefore, the self. Often translated into “spatial” terms, these constructions overlap several fields rarely grasped together, such as landscape, lived space, intimate one, history, objects, practices, and language. They challenge the binary identifications and home-making framed by nationalism.   

Based on in-depth qualitative research on various case studies, the project draws on anthropological, historical, and sociological work on the relationship between space and memory. On the one hand, it examines the effects of the national on intertwined, hybrid, and ambivalent histories, spaces, memories, identifications and borders, displacements, circulations, translations, and relationships shaped by and shared through the matrix of the space-time of empires, in their various forms. On the other hand, it questions how these social constructions disclose specific relations and effects between different actors.

Nowadays, Europe is trying to rebrand its image of a dark continent and claim the need to decolonize its history, heritage, and spaces while closing its borders to migrants. However, Europe is also advocating unity in diversity by purging its near past of empire-building, which is still echoing the national entities’ social structures.

These points raise at least two critical concerns for us:

1.How did the fragmentation of multicultural entities into nations produce a reduction of histories and cultures instead of diversity? How does it build the absence of whole segments of peoples, landscapes, languages, cultures, religions, histories, and relationships in a few decades? To what extent the constructed loss of home and homeland of those we are currently “absent” is inextricably linked to the gaining of home and homeland for those who stayed and/or replaced them?

2. Secondly, the research raises questions about nation-building and Europe’s very temporality today, which built itself on an “inverted” temporality of belonging, citizenship, and home for large segments of its populations. This inversion manifests in processes of “undoing” rights and “undoing” identity, relationship to places, and to live together.

Following this line of analysis, the cross-analysis of current spatial and social constructions of absence and presence of the displaced/remained/replaced in different European contexts offers not only an empirical arena but also a powerful analytical tool for exploring and rethinking the local version of processes of inclusion and exclusion, of presence and absence, adhesion and disaffiliation within Europe. It also leads us to explore the question of ‘historical traumas’, particularly when they are mobilized as ‘founders’, and to reflect on possible ways out of the painful alternative of ‘remembering everything’ and/or ‘forgetting everything’.

Past in the present: migration and the uses of history in the contemporary era

25 March 2021 13h30 – 15h30

A Tandem Webinar
organized by Catherine Perron (Centre for international relations (CERI) – SciencesPo: Research group migrations and mobilities and Johana Wyss (Czech Academy of Sciences/CEFRES), with the collaboration of Michèle Baussant (CEFRES, CNRS) and Maria Kokkinou (CEFRES/Charles University).

Date: March 25th, 2021, 1.30 to 3.30 pm
Place: Online (see the Zoom link below)
Language: English


Christophe Bertossi – Centre for Migration and Citizenship, French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Paris/Department INTEGER, Fellow Institut Convergences Migrations, Paris
Jan Willem Duyvendak –  University of Amsterdam (UvA), /Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS-KNAW), Amsterdam
Nancy Foner – Hunter College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York

Will be presenting the Special Issue they published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.


Wulf Kansteiner – School of Culture and society – History subject – Aarhus University, Denmark
Evelyne Ribert – CNRS/Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain (IIAC)/EHESS – Fellow Institute Convergences Migrations

For more information about the Tandem programme, see the website:

To join the Zoom meeting, please click on the following link:


Le passé au présent : usages de l’histoire et migration à l’époque contemporaine

25 mars 2021 13h30 – 15h30

Webinaire Tandemorganisé par  Catherine Perron  (Centre de recherches internationales de SciencesPo, CERI : Groupe de recherche migrations et mobilitiés et Johana Wyss (Académie tchèque des sciences / CEFRES) avec la collaboration de Michèle Baussant (CEFRES / CNRS) et Maria Kokkinou (CEFRES / Université Charles).

Date : 25 mars 2021, 13h30 à 15h30
Lieu : En ligne (lien Zoom disponible ci-dessous)
Langue : Anglais

Intervenants :

Christophe Bertossi – Centre for Migration and Citizenship, French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Paris/Department INTEGER, Fellow Institut Convergences Migrations
Jan Willem Duyvendak – Sociology, University of Amsterdam (UvA), /Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS-KNAW), Amsterdam
Nancy Foner – Hunter College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

Ils présenteront le numéro spécial du Journal of ethnic and migration studies : Past in the present : migration and the uses of history in the contemporary era.

Discutants :

Wulf Kantsteiner – School of Culture and society – History subject – Aarhus University – Denmark
Evelyne Ribert – CNRS / Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain (IIAC)/ EHESS – Fellow Institut Convergence Migration

Pour plus d’informations sur le programme Tandem, veuillez consulter ce site :

Pour vous connecter à la réunion, voici le lien Zoom :

Silesia: simultaneously present and absent

One of the less known regions with which the Tandem project is concerned is Silesian. This Central European region with a volatile past, marks an area where Bohemian, Moravian, German, and Polish spheres of influence converge, both historically and contemporaneously. Despite the aspirations of some, Silesia has never managed to become a state in its own right, leaving it vulnerable to the territorial ambitions of the states in which it has existed. Throughout most of the last millennium, Silesia has been a constitutive part of the Czech Kingdom and the Habsburg Empire and in the eighteenth century, after the Silesian Wars, it was divided between Austria-Hungary and Prussia. Prussia expanded significantly as a result of its conquest of seven-eighths of Silesian territory in the 1740s, later called Prussian Silesia. From the total area of Silesia of 40,625 sq. km, Prussia gained 35,786 sq. km. The Prussian military’s conquest of Silesia entailed a dramatic increase in the territory of the Prussian state by a little less than fifty percent, and the Prussian population of 2,240,000 was also increased by the addition of 1,160,000 Silesians, who thus constituted nearly a third of Prussia’s population following the conflict. Austria-Hungary, on the other hand, was left with only a narrow south-eastern strip of Silesia, consequently named ‘Austrian Silesia’, and constituting only one-eighth of the former Silesian Land.

Writing about Silesia is a challenging task for a number of reasons. For example, having disappeared from the present-day map, where is Silesia? It clearly exists in the minds of its inhabitants, as well as those of the relevant nation-state authorities. How, then, should one deal with a missing land that never really went away? One possible solution would be to go ‘back in time’ and use the geographical traces of the past to reconstruct the borders of Silesian land. The result could be a map, such as the one below, showing the borders of Austria Silesia and Prussia Silesia superimposed on the modern-day Central European states.

For open access academic resources, go to:

Displaced Memories & Memories of Displacement

The international workshop Displaced Memories & Memories of Displacement: Vanquished Others, Silenced Past, and the Burden of Implication in the 21st Century will take place on 9th-11th June 2021 in Prague.

This workshop seeks to provide a comparative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary platform to discuss many cases of how the supressed heritage of the displaced populations in Europe and beyond is being negotiated in the present day. Given the nature of the historical imagination, the dissolution of social spaces can potentially lead to the belief that the history of those who ‘lost’ cannot be afforded memorial sites as they are no longer represented by a symbolic or geographic region. Countries that re-hosted the expellees believed that the expellees’ former sense of belonging would not be an issue in the present. However, the expellees often considered themselves expatriates and transformed their former local and regional places of settlement into homelands, cultivating a ‘retrotopical’ attitude (Bauman, 2017). 

At the same time, the newcomers who repopulated the left behind spaces, that were previously inhabited by the vanquished other, also found themselves in difficult position. While some of them took an active role in the expulsion as perpetrators, many of them could be seen as ‘implicated subject’ (Rothberg, 2019). How do the newcomers understand and negotiate their role and positionality in the context of forced displacement? 

The memories of displacement as well as displaced memories concern people in between several places, across different temporalities, and with multiple belonging. As such, they are notoriously difficult to grasp and therefore severely understudied. To amend this void in our knowledge and to question our taken for granted assumptions in this workshop we advocate multidirectional approach to memories of the displaced populations to answer these questions: 

  • How are social spaces redefined by their new inhabitants?
  • What happens with the heritage of the vanquished Other?
  • How has the heritage of displacement itself been ignored, forgotten, memorialized, transplanted duplicated, and recreated and commemorated, despite the dispersion of people and the lack of material artefacts?
  • Which sites of memory and what memorialization practices for these pasts are no longer associated with their former ‘milieux de memoire’ (Halbwachs 1941; Lavabre 2007)?


The Notion of Silence vs the Act of Silencing

Silence is often associated with an absence or a void. However, in many cases, silence is in fact a powerful means of communication. For example, it is often used as a highly emotional tool in commemorative rituals, like the two-minute silence held to remember victims of war. It can relate to the desire to achieve peace and to connect with the divine through meditation and prayer, as is the case in Buddhist or Quaker silent practice. Silence can be also an active way of resistance, where the decision to refrain from talking requires a considerable amount of willpower, such as not to divulge a hiding location of political prisoners. However, silence can also tell us about a culturally tabooed subject of which one is not meant to speak publicly, such as menstrual cycle; or indicate danger and fear, as is evocatively described in Harry Potter novels featuring “You-Know-Who”. As such, it does not exclusively belong to a singular domain, rather it oscillates between liberty and restriction, conflict and reconciliation, presence and absence, as well as hope and fear. The type of silence that I am particularly interested in is ‘historical silence’, referring to fragments of the past that is available and meaningful in the present day (people know about it/remember it either personally or vicariously), however we do not officially talk about it or commemorate it. It is silenced.

Silencing is an active attempt of a social actor (individual, group, or institution) to directly or indirectly assert their power to silence another social actor. Silencing is thus fundamentally different to forgetting, which, in my reading, is not prescriptive. If a social actor is forced to refrain from remembering, it is a form of silencing, not forgetting. Silencing, as an act of causing another social actor to fall silent, can also take multiple forms. For instance, a religious group can attempt to silence marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+ by the threat of excommunicating them from the church they belong to; totalitarian regimes can silence their opponents by imprisonments or by sending political prisoners into labour camps; criminal organizations like the mafia can be silencing their victims by killing them; or nation states sanitize their past wrongdoings by silencing compromising narratives in the national school curricula, such as the case of whitewashing the USA’s history textbooks, as one example among many. Silencing is always political, serving particular purposes, and reflecting current societal power dynamics.

Katja Hrobat-Virloget

Katja Hrobat Virloget is an associate professor at the Primorska University in Koper (FH UP). Her research interests are silenced memories, contested pasts, alternative heritage discourses, appropriations and interruptions of histories, the turn of social positions after the population transfer of (mostly) Italians from Istria. She focuses in particular on remained Italians and the “newly” formed Yugoslavian society, which settled in the emptied spaces after “exodus”. She is the PI of the slovenian team on the PHC Proteus project “Pasts without history and displaced histories of people without traces”

Mémoires défaites / Defeated memories

Defeated memories est un projet du programme TANDEM de l’Académie tchèque des sciences (CAS), de l’Université Charles et du CEFRES/CNRS, basé sur la coopération de la plate-forme CEFRES et visant à promouvoir l’excellence dans les sciences sociales et humaines. A travers ce blog, nous voulons informer sur le développement du projet de recherche, partager les résultats préliminaires, diffuser les présentations et les publications. L’objectif est d’impulser un dialogue avec tous les chercheurs intéressés par ces questions.
À l’initiative de Michèle Baussant, anthropologue et directrice de recherches au CNRS, ce projet Tandem est également porté, côté tchèque, par Johana Wyss, anthropologue et chercheure à l’Académie tchèque des sciences. Maria Kokkinou, anthropologue et postdoctorante au Cefres et à l’Université Charles, est aussi membre de l’équipe Tandem.

Au point de vue scientifique, ce carnet a au moins quatre objectifs :

-Proposer une réflexion pionnière sur les paysages mémoriels fantomatiques, matériels et symboliques, des minorités vaincues, déplacées et dispersées après l’effondrement successif des entités impériales et multinationales au cours du XXe siècle, la reconfiguration des pays d’Europe centrale et orientale due à la guerre froide, et plus tard, à la chute des régimes communistes. Par minorités vaincues, nous entendons les populations qui ont été identifiées ou associées aux régimes politiques de ces formations, et considérées comme complices ou comme responsables de leurs systèmes politiques de domination et/ou de dictature.

  • Croiser de manière inédite les mémoires des déplacés et de ceux qui ont habité ou continué d’habiter les espaces culturels et physiques après eux, offrant des images en miroir, décalées, distordues ou aveugles.
  • Décrire les effets de ces passés dans le présent, leurs formes complexes et ambiguës de présence et d’absence, d’exclusion et d’inclusion dans les territoires où ces populations ont disparu et dans ceux où elles ont transporté et parfois transposé, de manière symbolique et matérielle, leurs héritages et leurs imaginaires.
  • En s’appuyant sur un choix de cas différents – minorités expulsées de Prusse orientale et de Silésie, Allemands des Sudètes et de Bucovine, Italiens de l’ex-Yougoslavie, minorités « étrangères » ou « locales » d’Egypte, Portugais d’Angola et du Mozambique, mettre au jour une cartographie stratifié et multiforme des « postsigns of memory », en s’appuyant sur la transversalité des cas, la mise en miroir des points de vue, la collecte de données ethnographiques et la production d’une base de données.

Defeated memories/Mémoires défaites

‘Defeated memories’ is a project within the TANDEM program of The Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS), Charles University and CEFRES/CNRS based on the CEFRES Platform’s cooperation that fosters excellency in social sciences and humanities. Through this blog, we want to inform about the development of the research project, share preliminary results, and disseminate presentations and publications. The objective is to stimulate a dialogue with all researchers interested in the issue of ‘defeated memories’.

Initiated by Michèle Baussant, anthropologist and research director at CNRS, this Tandem project is also carried out, on the Czech side, by Johana Wyss, anthropologist and researcher at the Czech Academy of Sciences. Maria Kokkinou, anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at CEFRES and at Charles University, is a member of the Tandem team as well.

In scientific terms, this blog has four main objectives:

 -To propose a pioneering approach on the ghostly, material and symbolic memorial landscapes of defeated minorities who have been displaced and dispersed after the successive collapse of imperial and multinational entities during the 20th century, followed by the Cold War reconfiguration of countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and later on, due to the fall of the communist regimes. We define defeated minorities as populations who have been identified or associated with the aforementioned political formations, and considered at best as accomplices, and at worst as responsible for their political systems of domination and/or dictatorship.

– To cross the memories of the displaced people in an unprecedented way and of those who lived or continued to live in the cultural and physical spaces after them, offering mirror images or images that are shifted, distorted or blind.

– To describe the effects of these pasts on the present, their complex and ambiguous forms of presence and absence, exclusion and inclusion in the territories where these populations disappeared and in those where they transported and sometimes transposed their heritage(s) and imaginations in a symbolic and material way.

– Based on a choice of different cases – Germans expelled from East Prussia and Silesia, Italians from former Yugoslavia, “foreign” or “local” minorities of Egypt, Portuguese of Angola and Mozambique-, to reveal the stratified and multifaceted cartography of “postsigns of memory”, by relying on the transversality of cases, the mirroring of points of view, the collection of ethnographic data and the production of databases.