Accepted paper:

Far and close from home :nostalgia and ambiguity in the Venice ghetto


Antonella Di Trani (ENSAPVS, Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-Val de Seine, Ecole des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to show how the actors involved in the Venice Ghetto try to find their lost and «authentic» ghetto, also considered like their «home». They reconstruct this feeling of belonging by upgrading the notion of ghetto and the meaning of this ancien urban enclave.

Paper long abstract:

The ghetto of Venice was created in 1516. This institutionalized enclave lasted until 1797. It has thus been a long time since the ghetto was a coerced living space. The ghetto is an ambiguous place, it is an object of tension and a space for power negotiation due to the discordant meanings attached to it, as an historical site and a public space. Preoccupied by the noticable shrinkage of the community, local jews consider the ghetto more and more a historical and primary location but they also say that the Ghetto is their « home ». The future of its material space and of its heritage comes into question when Venitian Jews want to unearth « yesterday's ghetto ». They are in a kind of nostalgia. What they want to find is not the coercitive underpinning of the enclave, but an authentically lived ghetto, the recurrence of the religious practices, and the lost cohesion of the community. All these elements lead to the « home » idea even if the jews live outside the ghetto. The feeling of belonging to the ghetto is not defined by their actual residence buy by the continuous reactivation, in their speeches, of their genealogical link to the place. The ghetto is a place of emotion but also a place of conflict. By reactivating the past of the place in the process of upgrading its present, Venitian Jews must come to terms, and not without some difficulty with the negative image of the old enclave.

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Home is where the heart is (broken)?