This study traces the trajectory of Israeli grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (GCOS) as they give voice to their parents’ and their own previously silent embodied memory. Impacted by the pedagogic experience of state-engineered high school trips to sites of Holocaust atrocity and the promotion of GCOS testimony, ethnographic interviews disclose GCOS critique of parental silence. GCOS aim to usurp their parents’ role as ‘authentic’ carriers of memory by salvaging the silenced past and performing state-enlisted public testimony. The GCOS trajectory from familial silence to publically enlisted and performed voice is for some however contingent upon GCOS ‘authentic’ embodied memories of silent Holocaust-related relations with their parents–children of survivors (COS) or with grandparent-survivors. Other GGOS warn of the ‘flattening effect’ of public voice on the authenticity and emotional complexity of familial silent memories. Moving beyond unidirectional relations between voice and silence, where voice emancipates silenced pasts or silence absences voice, GCOS accounts reflexively depict the complex bidirectional and mutually qualifying trajectories between testimonial voice and familial silence. Descendant accounts permit for a deconstruction of the binary and univocal reading of embodied silence and voice and a reconceptualization of survivor/descendant authenticity. Implications regarding the inherent limits of silence and voice and the related challenges facing the subfield of Anthropology of Silence are considered.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by Israel Science Foundation [grant number 1323/09].
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- testimonial voice
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies