In the wake of decolonisation movements, an impressive number of Europeans and non-Europeans were repatriated to Europe from former colonies, including North Africa. Despite the scale of this phenomenon, the impact that these return migrations had on migrants themselves and on host nations in Europe, remained until recently an “invisible” subject in academic literature as recalled by Andrea Smith [A. Smith (ed.), Europe’s Invisible Migrants, 2003]. Jews were also part of these mass migration movements.
By the end of the 1960s to the mid-1970s in fact, some thousands of Jews were still living in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Their presence in the region, however, was almost put to an end by events that destabilised the entire area: colonial and post-colonial tensions, the rise of Arab nationalism and the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab countries in 1967 [Abécassis F. and Faü J-F., “Le monde musulman: effacement des communautés juives et nouvelles diasporas depuis 1945”, 2011]. Many Jews chose Europe – rather than Israel – to start a new life because they were citizens of a European state or because they considered themselves as “Europeans” in terms of cultural and linguistic affiliations. Others headed to the USA and Canada, where the largest diasporic Moroccan Jewish “community” lives [Soomekh S. (ed.), Sephardi and Mizrahi Jew in America, 2016; Cohen Y., Messika M., Cohen Fournier S., “Les mots d’une migration postcoloniale dans les récits de Juifs”, 2015].
Inspired by Smith’s observations, the research project “Europe’s (In)Visible Jewish Migrants”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and lead by the blog’s author, deals with the issue of Jewish migrations from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe during the second half of the twentieth century and aims at assessing its “in-visibility”, that is the impact that these migrations had on migrants themselves, as well as on host societies (nations and Jewish communities). The project in particular, focuses on the case of MENA Jews emigrated to Italy from the 1950s until the 1980s.
At the core of “Be-longing”, lies the idea of postcolonial Europe as a place where the routes of millions of postcolonial migrants – non-Jews and Jews alike – converged or simply crisscrossed; where rhizomatic roots ( à la Deleuze and Guattari) created multiple cultural attachments; and where the performances of memory produced by the migrants themselves (both as individuals as a “group”) try to make sense of their journey as well as their human trajectories.
The aim of this scholarly blog is twofold. Firstly, it should represent a space for sharing the intellectual journey that the research project “Europe’s (In)Visible Jewish Migrants” will inspire as well as for unveiling the results it will produce. Secondly, “Belonging” should offer the opportunity for bringing together scholars working on issues of memory, cultural affiliation, identity (re)construction in postcolonial Europe, with a specific research focus on the Jewish experience. At the same time, it welcomes contributions from scholars working on non-Jewish postcolonial migrants, and considers this a crucial aspect in order to address the blog’s topic from a global history perspective.