Gil Pasternak gives a conference keynote talk on digital heritage in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at the University of Sussex, UK

On 5 September 2018, Gil Pasternak was invited to deliver a keynote conference paper titled “Online Communities Offline: Digital Heritage in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, as part of the international, interdisciplinary symposium Commemoration, Memory, Archive: Investigating Commemorative and Memorial Uses of Personal, Non-Professional Images in the Digital Age in the Global South, which was organised at the University of Sussex, 4-5 September 2018. Gil’s paper looked at two digital heritage projects that emerged in Israel-Palestine in the second decade of the twenty-first century as a means to propagate politically charged Israeli and Palestinian national histories. Instigated by Israeli politicians, on the one hand, and by authoritative Palestinian institutions, on the other, the two projects have been geared towards digitizing and uploading family photographs online, in order to evince the exclusive connection of each people to the same land. Similar in spirit but significantly different in scope and means, the projects have thus perpetuated at least two contested visual narratives about the history of the same geographical region. Each of these claims it for one nation, playing down (even erasing) the otherwise undeniable historical presence of the other. Informed by archival research, digital ethnography, and fieldwork, Gil’s paper described the assumptions and desires that led political officials on both sides to consider family albums and digital heritage as appropriate means to negotiate national identities and activate patriotic sentiments. Gil pointed to the temptation to understand the initiatives as digital enactments of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet he argued that they shape the lived experience of regional politics not through their online presence, but rather by involving individuals of all walks of life in the digitization and communal narration of personal photographs, offline.

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