Resurrecting Discontinued Bonds: A Comparative Study of Israeli Holocaust and Cambodian Genocide Trauma Descendant Relations with the Genocide Dead

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Abstract

This comparative study examines the way Israeli Holocaust descendants and Cambodian genocide descendants differentially reconstitute “discontinued” descendant-ancestor relations with the genocide dead they never knew. Empirically examining the way distant bonds “discontinued” in contexts of warfare and mass suffering are restored in everyday life, this study fills a lacuna in the scholarship on genocide legacies, continuing bonds, and person-dead contact. Descendants depict channels of engagement with the dead entailing person- person-dead contact, person-object interaction, and imaginal conversations, constituting copresence and intersubjectivity. Contrary to trauma theory, Holocaust and genocide studies, and the anthropology of absence that reduce relations with the dead to maladaptive identification or the burdensome presence of voided absence, the data points to normalized and empowering relations. Comparative findings contribute to our understanding of the way cross-cultural meaning making differentially conceptualizes the porous border between the living and their ancestors and informs the restoration of (dis)-continued bonds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-253
Number of pages24
JournalEthos
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. This comparative study was made possible thanks to the generous funding of the Israel Science Foundation (1611/15). Data was collected prior to the establishment of an ethics committee protocol for the evaluation of anthropological/ethnographic research at the University of Haifa.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the American Anthropological Association

Keywords

  • continuing bonds
  • death
  • genocide legacies
  • intercultural variation
  • intergenerational transmission of trauma
  • memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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