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Youssef Ades: a bronze plaque on a synagogue bench in Cairo

Abstract : Many years ago, while I started working on Egyptian Jews, how they portrayed the world they were leaving left me wondering: what is a world becoming depopulated for those who stay and those who left? People I met referred, of course, to the political context that weighed on their destiny: 1948 and the creation of the State of Israel, 1956 in particular, and the Suez war, their involvement in communist movements that led to their expulsion, the sequestration of property and the loss of jobs. Though the most striking was their depiction of a world where their families, their friends disappeared from one day to the next, often without any warning, and usually leaving everything behind: flats full of objects but devoid of people, half-empty schoolrooms, streets that changed composition, shops with different owners. A world was once seen and no longer seen, where some traces remain on the spot, such as buildings, objects, pictures. Have those who disappeared no longer existed, or have they just vanished from view? Not being any more or not being seen are two ways of being absent. However, absentees are still able to resurface and return; unless they are only ghosts whose stories we don't remember anymore except for the traces and objects they left behind. This contribution focuses on these objects. But not any objects: a bronze plaque on a synagogue bench, a tombstone with a name endorsing the physical location of the person there and no longer there, a name in a Ketubah or a Mohel book. A name that we carry with us, that we give, and we pass on. A plaque, a stone with a name that marks the presence of an absence, related to a constellation of objects - identity papers, photos - left behind and taken with us. This leftover object embodies and identifies a specific person and community belonging, both personal and collective. It binds a person to what and who he/she is.
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Contributor : Michèle Baussant Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Sunday, January 2, 2022 - 11:06:03 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 2:58:08 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-03506883, version 1


Michèle Baussant. Youssef Ades: a bronze plaque on a synagogue bench in Cairo. Mobile Culture Studies - The Journal, University of Graz, Austria, In press, The Materialities of Be-longing: Objects in/of Exile across the Mediterranean. ⟨halshs-03506883⟩



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