UK Team

In the UK research team we attend to the popularity of state-led and grassroots digital heritage initiatives in Israel. We investigate how digital heritage is employed within Israel’s politically turbulent reality to stabilize, counter or diversify dominant power structures as well as a means to establish less conventional socio-cultural relationships within members of Israeli society. Our study focuses both on state- and community-led projects that create opportunities for Israelis to partake in digitisation and public engagement activities. We mainly intend to show that such initiatives normally turn to individuals from one nationally or culturally coherent social group, usually with the intention of securing that group’s social visibility and increasing its political power by rendering its cultural heritage assets into connected memories.

We employ fieldwork, archival research, participant observations, interviews and analysis of the initiatives’ resulting digital heritage to explore the reasons behind the currently growing popular interest of the state and its people in reinstating national and cultural values at this particular moment in time. More significantly, we wish to clarify what particular roles the digitisation and digitalisation of cultural heritage are meant to be playing in this process.

To this end, we mainly scrutinise state and community initiatives that focus specifically on the preservation of family photographs that document the country, its residents and its histories. We zoom in on these kinds of examples because bringing family photographs into public spaces, while not an unusual phenomenon by itself, requires cooperation from their owners. Focusing on initiatives that utilise family photographs therefore assists us to evaluate the impact of political dispositions on the digitisation of cultural heritage in the country. Indeed, exploring the resulting digital photographic archives and similar meaningful products, we pay close attention to their structure and organization as a means to evaluate emerging definitions of cultural heritage, explore whose heritage they include, and what biases, if any, they reveal about perceptions of the histories and social positions of Israel’s multiple ethnic groups.

Strongly believing that research must benefit society rather than the other way around, in addition to our scholarly research we are committed to generating knowledge dissemination public activities, workshops, and displays for all project participants and any other interested communities. These also include photographic digitisation and documentation training opportunities geared towards increasing public understanding of the politics of photographic digital heritage in particular.

Gil Pasternak (PhD)

Principal Investigator, DigiCONFLICT Project Leader

Gil Pasternak is Reader in Social and Political Photographic Cultures in the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) at De Montfort University (UK). His research investigates intersections of photography with sociopolitical realities and cultural heritage practices, especially in Israeli society, twentieth-century Poland, and the histories of Polish Jewry from the interwar to the post-communist era. His recent and forthcoming publications include the books Visioning Israel–Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict (2020), The Handbook of Photography Studies (2020), Visual Conflicts: On the Formation of Political Memory in the History of Art and Visual Cultures (2011; with Paul Fox), and a special issue of the journal Photography & Culture titled “Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-Communist Histories” (2019). Pasternak is also co-convener of Ph: The Photography Research Network and a member of the advisory board for Apna Heritage Archive and the journal Photography & Culture. Earlier in life, Pasternak worked as photojournalist and photography archivist, as well as an editorial and fine art photographer.

Email me: gpasternak@dmu.ac.uk

Tom Snow (PhD)

Research Assistant

Tom Snow is an art historian and critic based in London. His research interests include contemporary art practice, activism, and critical visual culture in the context of neoliberal globalisation. He was awarded his PhD (AHRC-funded) in art history from University College London in 2018, where he continues to teach, alongside Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Tom’s writings have appeared in a number of book publications, journals and magazines, as well as having engaged with multiple online projects such as the research forum for contemporary art and visual culture in the Middle East and North Africa, Ibraaz, where he acts as editorial correspondent.