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Cambridge Heritage Research Centre


'Is My Voice Future Heritage? - the Politics and Processes of Jewish Sound Archiving in the Mediterranean'

Dr. Vanessa Paloma Elbaz (Faculty of Music and Peterhouse, University of Cambridge)

Thursday 12 October 2023, 1pm

The immediacy of sound in eliciting emotional impact to its listeners and the intimacy it can create with an unknown and unseen person appealed to me as I came to realize that the oral history materials that I had gathered for my research could continue to have a life that would enrich future scholarship and cultural actions. The dearth of available materials for young generations of Moroccan Muslims for researching Moroccan history, meant that each one of these oral histories provided valuable information not only about Jewish life, but about Moroccan history tout court. A disruption of the narratives set into power through the bureaucratic structures of colonialism on Moroccan Judaism seems to be the only way that an organic integration of Judaism’s millenary history in Morocco will become a part of the three-dimensional de-colonialized Moroccan citizen of the future. This, however, will require a cognitive rupture which would allow the invalidation of long-standing habitual inferences which would lead to the slow erosion of automatic interpretations and responses eventually leading to the placement of technological and economic infrastructures in support of scholars and community activists who work towards the establishment of full-spectrum archiving of Jewish memory. My work in sound archiving through the KHOYA archive is but one small portion of a larger historiographical project to present the complexity of what Brahim el-Guabli (2022) has aptly named Moroccan other-archives, necessitating a cognitive rupture from traditional relationships to narratives, oral-written continuums and the understanding of what an archive is, be it sonic, embodied, topographical or material.

Dr. Vanessa Paloma Elbaz is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Music and Peterhouse whose work focuses on the cultural histories of sound in the diasporic regions of 1492’s expulsion, describing how issues of transmission, regeneration and the negotiations of gender and power intersect with sound, philosophy, and belief until today. Focusing on sonic transmission and languages of the Sephardi community and its diasporas as well as the use of music in relating to the national narratives of diversity in both Eastern and Western Mediterranean regions, her research combines ethnography and historical musicology to understand how voice, sound and music affect the long durée in diasporic communities. She is described as “a kind of one-woman roving museum of her own” by The New York Times, and her archiving work was featured in a 2022 New York Times feature on Judeo Spanish women's music

Thursday, 12 October, 2023 - 13:00 to 14:00
Contact name: 
Isavella Voulgareli
Contact email: 
Event location: 
Seminar Room, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Downing Street, Cambridge and online via Zoom (registration required)