In the late 1950s, thousands of Jews still lived in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), but political events that destabilised the entire area forced many to leave their country thus putting almost to an end the Jewish presence in the region. Jewish studies scholarship has recently begun to consider these migrations within a wider postcolonial framework. Recent efforts have also considered MENA Jewish migrations by drawing on concepts from ethnic studies and migration studies: two intertwined, interdisciplinary research fields that have gained additional complexity by studying the issues of gender and ageing. Migration studies scholars have highlighted gender-based copying strategies in migration, with women often appearing to cope better with the situation. MENA Jews as well have recalled that, as children, they saw that their mothers and fathers coped differently with ‘expectations of recognition and its absence’, and their fathers more acutely resented ‘misplaced masculinities’.
Based on the case study of Jewish migrations from MENA to Europe from the 1950s to 1970s, the project will apply the lenses of age and gender to examine memories of forced migration and will consider the memory narratives of migrants’ children to be a ‘later coping strategy’ for handling their parents’ traumas during the migration process. In the first line of inquiry, the project will tackle the question of how ‘misrecognition’—or the ‘sense of discontent’ that can develop when individuals experience a ‘discrepancy between expectations of recognition and its absence’—manifests in gender and intergenerational relations. Second, the project will investigate how those who were children at the time of migration and are now well into the ageing process engage with difficult migration memories along gendered lines: how ageing and gender—notably the performance of masculinity—have shaped the process of identification of these Jews over time? Which patterns of community and the intergenerational transmission of (Jewish) masculinity models and migration trauma can we apprehend by this experience?
The project can make an innovative contribution to the study of Jewish masculinities—mostly explored for the case of Jews of European descent— and more broadly to the intersectionality of ageing, gender and migration. In fact, they offer a life-course perspective on ‘ageing gendered identities’ in the context of migration, a perspective which awaits further exploration. The project will involve elements of innovative pedagogy and research-creation practices.