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University of Haifa
[Haifa U, Communication] Tamar Katriel's academic research on "Breaking the Silence"

U of Haifa Professor Tamar Katriel

Email: tamark@construct.haifa.ac.il

Editorial Note:

Professor Tamar Katriel is a life-long activist who has engaged in numerous pro-Palestinian events that sought to delegitimize Israel.  For instance, she signed the letter organized by Anat Biletzki, in 2001, stating that Israeli Academics support their students refusal to serve in the occupied territories . Issued in conjunction with the movement "Courage to Refuse,"  the petition noted that "Such service too often involves carrying out orders that have no place in a democratic society founded on the sanctity of human life."  The letter did not mention that the Israel Defense Force was engaged in fighting a wave of unprecedented terror unleashed by the Palestinians in the wake of the collapse of the Oslo process.

This time around Katriel will present her new research in September in Sweden on "straight talk" of another army refusal group "Breaking the Silence." Judging by her previous positions, it is therefore expected that Katriel will not find the time to condemn terrorism. 

Katriel's work is popular with radical scholars, including anarchists.  John Petrovato, the former Director of the Institute for Anarchist Studies wrote in his paper "Producing National Identity: Museums, Memory and Collective Thought in Israel" that “Israeli citizens have been trained not to ‘see’ Palestinians. It is not that they are not there but political, visual, cultural, and legal barriers have been erected that obscure the view.”  Among others Petrovato attributes his insights on the alleged reality of the conflict to Katriel whom he cites at length.

By producing work that is popular with anarchists and other radical circles whose agenda is political rather than academic, Katriel abuses her academic position.  

The Ørecomm Festival 2013  –13 to 16 September 

“Countermemories, Counterdiscourses, Counterpublics”

Tamar Katriel (University of Haifa, Israel)

Abstract: The culture of silence and denial that surrounds the on-the-ground reality of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has been punctuated by the emergence of a range of well-articulated voices of public dissent. These contentious voices make their intervention by attempting to counter hegemonic discourses through the creative use of familiar cultural forms, semiotic styles, communication technologies and ritual occasions.My discussion focuses on one such form of counter-discourse,generated, circulated and archived by the veterans' organization Breaking the Silence [hence, BTS]. By creating an edifice of soldiers'testimonies on their experiences as upholders of the occupation regime in the Palestinian territories, during and since the second Intifada, this group's memory activism is designed to inscribe the scene of military occupation in public memory and to trigger an open discussion of its moral implications. Viewing BTS as a “witnessing organization” (Frosh2006), the soldiers' testimonial discourse is considered here as a culturally-inflected version of straight talk, known in Israeli culture as“dugri” speech (Katriel 1986), which falls into Foucault's (2001) category of “fearless speech.” The soldiers' testimonials are grounded in their authentic positioning as “flesh witnesses” (Harari 2008), whose knowledge of the scene of occupation is rooted in their embodied presence in this scene as perpetrators and eye-witnesses.Their project consists of circulating counter-memories of erratic and brutal military conduct, including memorable incidents of “moral shock”(Jasper 1997), which challenge official state-sponsored proclamations and mainstream media depictions of the occupation regime. In so doing,the soldier-activists seek to create counter-publics (Warner 2002) that will respond to their call for “epistemic responsibility” (Linell and Rommetvreit 1998 ) and will eventually lead the way to the end of the occupation.

Bio: Tamar Katriel holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is Professor at the University of Haifa, Israel, in the Department of Communication and the Department of Leadership and Policy in Education. Her research areas are the Ethnography of Communication and Discourse Studies.She is author of “Talking Straight: Dugri Speech in Israeli Sabra Culture” (1986); “Communal Webs: Communication and Culture in Contemporary Israel” (1991); “Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums” (1997); “Dialogic Moments: From Soul Talks toTalk Radio in Israeli Culture” (2004), and a range of articles in journalsand books. In recent years, she has been studying the culturalproduction of alternative discourses by grassroot activist groups


SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia

30 June - 4 July, 2013
Theme: 'Circulation'


"Phantom nostalgia" in Israeli heritage museums

Author: Tamar Katriel (University of Haifa)  email

Short Abstract

The museums discussed combine affirmation and rejection of the Jewish past, belonging and alienation, ethnic distinctiveness and national inclusion. They cultivate “phantom nostalgia” through the "presence of absence" even while disregarding tangible traces of a local past.

Long Abstract

Using case studies of two vernacular museums designed to commemorate the heritage of Central European Jews in Israel - the Museum of German-speaking Jewry in Tefen and the Museum of Hungarian-speaking Jewry in Safed - I address the ways in which gaps and fissures are thematized, marginalized or brushed over in these museological contexts.

Both museums reconstruct the particular trajectories of the culture and history of the Jews in cultural areas demarcated by language-use as well as the story of their immigration to Palestine/Israel and their often painful incorporation into Israeli society. Both, too, walk a thin line between affirmation and rejection of the Jewish Diaspora past, a sense of belonging and alienation vis-à-vis mainstream Israeli society on the one hand and European culture on the other.

Established through the efforts of Holocaust survivors backed by immigrant associations, these two museums serve both commemorative and pedagogical functions as they negotiate their claims to cultural distinctiveness. They pay tribute to the Jewish communal past and shared sense of loss yet go beyond Jewish victimhood through affirmative and forward-looking displays of energizing past accomplishments. They thus inculcate members of younger generations with a sense of "phantom nostalgia" - a "presence of absence", a reaching out to places and times they never knew. Ironically, this family-anchored "phantom nostalgia" coincides with a cultivated disregard for the divisions and fractures underlying the museums' enterprise and their political implications.


Tamar Katriel, Ph.D.

Tamar KatrielProfessor
Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion
Room 8034, Rabin Com­plex
Uni­ver­sity of Haifa
Mt. Carmel, Israel 31905
Email: tamark@edu.haifa.ac.il

Professor Katriel is engaged in a long-term ethnographic study of grassroots activism in the Israeli context in relation to global activist movements. One study, in collaboration with Nimrod Shavit (currently a Ph.D. student at UMass), explores the production and dissemination of oppositional knowledge by a group of veteran-activists who act as a “witnessing organization.” This study extends Dr. Katriel’s previous work on dugri speech. Another study, in collaboration with Dr. Yif’at Gutman (currently a postdoc at the Hebrew University), deals with the notion of “media activism” via an exploration of documentary film-making projects designed to record the ongoing joint non-violent struggle of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals against the building of the Separation Wall between Israel and Palestine. This study will appear in a book Dr. Katriel is co-editing with Prof. Anna Reading (University of Western Sydney) on the cultural memory of non-violent struggle. Another line of research, in collaboration with Oren Livio of the University of Haifa, deals with the Israeli “tent protests” of summer 2011, focusing on the verbal, visual and spatial strategies employed by protesters (both locally generated and globally inspired) as well as on the strategic uses made of the meta-pragmatic terms “discourse” and “language” in discussions of the protest’s claims to effecting social change.

Dr. Katriel is also involved in futher ethnographic studies of Israeli vernacular museums, extending her earlier work on kibbutz museums to a comparative study of two immigration museums located in the Galilee that commemorate the heritage of Central European Jews. Both museums define their scope in language-based terms (as relating to German-speaking Jewish communities in one case and to Hungarian-speaking ones in the other). The study explores the museums’ representational repertoires and forms of engagement with their publics as local strategies of identity negotiation and intergenerational transmission that seek to balance ethnicity with nationhood and give voice to a troubled sense of nostalgia in a post-Holocaust context. The recent emergence of these museums is discussed in relation of the contemporary politics of inter-ethnic relations in Israel, especially the major tension between Jews of Middle Eastern (Mizrahim) and European (Ashkenazim) origins. Through this comparative case study, local vernacular museums – versions of which have sprung in many parts of the world – are singled out as community-based and community-building cultural institutions that are strategically positioned to address a variety of audiences, deal with dilemmas of inclusion and exclusion, cultivate the nexus between local and national memory, and develop distinctive forms multi-modal and multi-directional communication in so doing.

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    1.  You forgot to mention that she is a hardcore Stalinist in Ma
     From Arie, Sent in 28-08-2013
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