Accepted paper:

'Recovered' roots, 'recovered' memory: constructing Jewish-ness as heritage in Greece


Vassiliki Yiakoumaki (University of Thessaly)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

Roots destinations, as cultural heritage constructs, can be loci of both 'restoring' memory and commodifying history/the past; both 'recovered' homelands and niche tourism products. What happens when such imagined homelands (hence also tourist destinations) are associated with historical trauma? This presentation is concerned with the emergence of a place in a contemporary European locale, which, among its other roles, also functions as a 'roots' destination because of its Jewish identity. The event of the recent restoration and re-opening of the Synagogue of Chania, in Crete, Greece, a place of Jewish 'absence' since WWII, constitutes a site for multiple readings: cultural heritage is being re-'discovered', Jewish identity is made visible within a Christian Greek dominated cultural context, a new place-of-return emerges for visitors with a special interest, and a new sense of rooted-ness is in the making.

Considering the element of Jewish absence about this place in the recent decades, either physically (as natives of Crete) or discursively in the public sphere, I shall discuss how such heritage-making processes can both make 'history' available for public display and consumption, and, at the same time, be politically significant and politically 'correct' events. To address this issue, I shall use the above case study in order to place the emergence of such historically marked loci within social changes and new political and economic agendas in the broader Europe during the last couple of decades. In this process, such 'tourist' destinations function as interfaces of affect, life history, and lived experience, on the one hand, and socio-political conjunctures and prerequisites, on the other.

panel C2
Roots tourism