Grand-daughter, daughter, anthropologist: an auto-ethnography of here and now, there and then
Maya Melzer-Geva (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)
Paper short abstract:
A cross-generational auto-ethnographic study constructs intimacies in contexts of time and space: past and present, Europe and Asia. Going back and forth, it introduces multi-layered identities. Through the dialogue between documentation and memory, World War II reflects on the present and beyond.
Paper long abstract:
The study was inspired by the EASA conference in 2008. The presentation reveals and analyses my grandmother's "real-time" diary, which documents life as refugee and labor camp victim over a six-year period of World War II. My mother, who was with her during this time, rewrote the diary and translated it from Polish to English. I then interviewed my mother, and asked her questions that arose from reading of my grandmother's diary, and from contemplating my mother's intimate relationship with my grandmother and with myself. The paper discusses the motivations behind the writing of a "thick description" diary during wartime, its translation 60 years later, and its anthropological analysis. These written and spoken accounts reveal social perspectives on family, gender, power, professions, religion and national identity - all through a cross-generational prism. Through my "matrilineal" past I understand the multi-layered construction of my complex identities as a person - as a woman, a parent, an anthropologist, and an Israeli citizen. In addition, through Memory I understand my mother's trans-nationalism, as part of her generation's migration patterns. A diary is a testimony chronologically constructed from the past forward, having no knowledge of the consequences and effects of the events experienced. An in-depth semi-structured interview memorizes life-history backwards, knowing war's outcome and being aware of a re-living of the wartime experience. When conducting auto-ethnography through three generational perspectives, I serve as a multi-layered meeting point of past, present and future, and of individual and cultural contexts.
Intimacy of social memory and the construction of self-identity linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations in the current interconnected world