Goitein's archive of Al Gades: cultural property, memory and performance
Tom Fogel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Paper short abstract:
The renowned scholar SD Goitein studied the people of Al Gades, a Jewish village in Yemen. The ethnographic material he collected was kept in his archive. 60 years later, this archive and the way it was created allow us to ask questions regarding cultural property, archival memory and performance.
Paper long abstract:
In the Early 1950's the renowned scholar S.D. Goitein launched a wide ethnographic survey among the Jewish-Yemenite community which had arrived in Israel. Through his survey, Goitein wanted to document a "typical" rural Jewish settlement in Yemen. He chose the community of Al Gades - a small village in southern Yemen, whose inhabitants migrated to Israel in 1950. Goitein engaged an 'indigenous' research assistant, Yussif Sayyani, in order to interview these Jews in their own language - Yemenite Arabic. Sayyani left hundreds of hand written reports, containing a detailed description of the village, its history, houses, domestic and social life, as well as the folktales, proverbs and songs of its people. These collected materials - texts, pictures and sounds - are stored in Jerusalem as a separate section of Goitein's Archive, where they remained, uncatalogued and mostly unpublished for 60 years. During that time, the culture of the people of Al Gades underwent dramatic transformation. Therefore, the decedents of Goitein's informants approach the archive as a source of knowledge about the culture of their own ancestors. In my discussion of this archive, I will address questions of cultural property (Bendix 2007), and questions regarding the role of the archive as a guardian of memory and performance (Taylor 2003).
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