‘The racial laws have turned our lives positively’: agentivity and chorality in the identity of a group of italian Jewish witnesses

Piazza, Roberta and Rubino, Antonia (2014) ‘The racial laws have turned our lives positively’: agentivity and chorality in the identity of a group of italian Jewish witnesses. In: Marked Identities. Palgrave, London, pp. 98-122. ISBN 9781137332820

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Abstract

This chapter explores the interviews conducted with a small group of Italian Rome-based Jews who are ‘witnesses of the racial laws’. Born in the 1930s, they are children of Jews who were persecuted under the Mussolini regime and, together with the very few camp survivors, are the last living voices of that period. The term ‘witnesses of the racial laws’ defines these interviewees’ ‘historically acquired identity’ (Schiffrin, 2002, p.310) and is a term they use to distinguish themselves from the ‘Holocaust survivors’, as the interviewees for the study presented in thisis chapterstudy experienced the German persecutions in Italy in a painful, bitter and mortifying way albeit with less cruelty than much less fortunate others. The relationship of our group of Italian Jews to the Shoah is a complex mixture of their continually renewing grief for those millions who were killed in various ways and respect and awe for the few who survived. As will be shown, these witnesses’ stories depart from the traditional accounts of the camp survivors who often engage, like Primo Levi’s memoirs, with the inevitable traps of memory, and ‘emphasize the emotional difficulties of retelling and the profound effect of living with memories that subvert the everyday construction of the self’ (Kyrmayer, 1996, p.182). Following Langer (1991) in Kyrmayer, 1996, p.183 ), we will discuss how in their role as public speakers within the project in which they are active members, the Memory Project (Progetto Memoria), our interviewees seem to have found a form of ‘compensating’, and hence pacifying, recall of the past. Instead of a memory ‘reanimating the governing impotence of the worst moments in a distinctly non-therapeutic way’, namely, an ‘uncompensating recall’ (ibid.), our participants establish a positive relation with their past through their involvement in the Memory Project.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Roberta Piazza
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2015 11:20
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015 11:20
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/56688
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