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Living intercultural lives: Identity performance and zones of interculturality.

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Davcheva, L. (University of Sofia) and Fay, R. (University of Manchester), Living intercultural lives: Identity performance and zones of interculturality. Paper presented at the Cultural Horizons: Identities, Relationships and Languages in Migration conference, Cagliari (Sardinia/Italy), September 25th – 27th, 2015.

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Living intercultural lives: Identity performance and zones of interculturality.

  1. 1. 11 Living Intercultural Lives: Identity Performance & Zones of Interculturality Leah Davcheva & Richard Fay Intercultural Horizons 5th International Conference Identities, Relationships and Languages in Migration
  2. 2. April 1492 2
  3. 3. Migrations and settlements 3
  4. 4. Yasmin Levy’s sings …. No tengo lugar Y no tengo paisaje Yo enos tengo patria ‘Naci en Alamo’, from the album La Juderia by Yasmin Levy © 2005, Adama Music 4 I have no place And I have no landscapes I have no homeland
  5. 5. Today’s focus  On the intra-, inter- and trans-cultural activities that the members of the diasporic Sephardic community in Bulgaria have engaged in and continue to engage in drawing upon their resources in Ladino  Interactions enabled by their multilingualism and especially their main language of cultural affiliation – Ladino  Interactions within and beyond their home society in Bulgaria and beyond 5
  6. 6. Ladino – heritage language of the Sephardim Names: Judesmo, Judaeo-Spanish, Spanyol, etc. A Romance language with roots in mediaeval Spanish Elements from: * Hebrew and Aramaic, reflecting its function as a Jewish language * French (via schooling) * Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian (co- territorial status in the Ottoman Empire) Has played an important cultural and communicational role for Sephardic Jewish communities 6
  7. 7. Elias Canetti wrote: People of the most varied backgrounds lived there, on any one day you could here seven or eight languages. […] Through the centuries since their expulsion from Spain, the Spanish they spoke with one another has changed little. A few Turkish words had been absorbed, but they were recognisable as Turkish, and there were nearly always Spanish words for them. The first children’s songs I heard were Spanish, I heard old Spanish romances; but the thing that was most powerful was a Spanish attitude. [...] To each other, my parents spoke German, which I was not allowed to understand. To us children and to all relatives and friends, they spoke Ladino. That was the true vernacular, albeit an ancient Spanish, I often heard it later on and I’ve never forgotten it. ... All events of those first few years were in Ladino or Bulgarian. It wasn’t until much later that most of them were rendered into German within me. (1979:10) 7
  8. 8. Our research project  Narrative study - the Ladino-focused life stories of a largely elderly group of Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria  Moving on from an exercise in oral history towards a statement of what these individuals did and do with their Ladino skills  Evolving from a framework of their Ladino framed lives to a more generally applicable conceptualisation 8
  9. 9. Meet our storytellers  Chosen for their knowledge of Ladino  Unexceptional, ordinary people  Not particularly special vis-à-vis intercultural communication  Having lived their lives in a complex and diverse society 9
  10. 10. Ivet Anavi 10
  11. 11. Eli Anavi 11
  12. 12. Claire Levy 12
  13. 13. David Cohen 13
  14. 14. Reina Lidgi 14
  15. 15. Aron Balli 15
  16. 16. Solomon Balli 16
  17. 17. Samuel Frances 17
  18. 18. Itsko Finzi 18
  19. 19. Our research project  Narrative study - the Ladino-focused life stories of a largely elderly group of Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria  Moving from an exercise in oral history towards a statement of what these individuals did and do with their Ladino skills  Evolving from a framework of their Ladino framed lives to a more generally applicable conceptualisation 19
  20. 20. Main research outcome: five zones of interculturality  the (intra-)personal --- a zone of internal dialogue;  the domestic --- a zone for the family  the local --- a zone for the Sephardic community in Bulgaria;  the diasporic --- a zone for the wider Sephardic community; &  the international --- the international community of Spanish- users. As set against the historically-, politically-, culturally-, and societally- changing Bulgarian Sephardic Jewish Ladino- oriented context(s) 20
  21. 21. The (Intra-)Personal zone (1)  … the way I felt exceptional when I realised that I knew a language which was not typically spoken in Bulgaria. [Aron]  My sense of being an heir to this language is special. It enthuses and empowers me with a kind of primary and fundamental force … We seek our sense of uniqueness and find it in this language. It is a symbol, a token of our otherness. [Andrey] 21
  22. 22. The (Intra-)Personal zone (2)  Ladino gives me a sense of belonging to something larger. Every so often, it gives me the freedom of choice – I can choose the culture I want to belong to. Even though it is not the language that I use now it just pops up in certain situations and this makes me realise that there’s this language inside me, lurking there, deep inside. [Gredi]  I sometimes wonder about my [Ladino] accent or my intonation – perhaps they bear some Jewish traces and give me away. [Andrey] 22
  23. 23. The domestic zone (1)  Judesmo is my mother tongue. At home we spoke Judesmo. I spoke Judesmo with my aunts, grannies, everybody … [Ivet]  We lived with my maternal grandparents, Grandad Gershon and Grandma Rachel. They spoke to me in Spanyol [Ladino] but I didn’t understand much at first. [Gredi]  My grandma would always speak to me in Spanish [Ladino]. [Andrey] 23
  24. 24. The domestic zone (2)  My Grandma always spoke to me in Ladino. When I was in my teens and my friends were around, she would still do it. She very well knew that my friends were all Bulgarian and could not understand a single Ladino word. Invariably, my reaction was to respond to her in Bulgarian, and thus demonstrate my disapproval – emphatically and strongly. This kind of response destroyed the intimacy between us. We would often argue. [Andrey] 24
  25. 25. The domestic zone (3)  … my Grandma moved in with us. […] She could not speak Bulgarian and she took it upon herself to teach me Ladino. She must have been a good ‘teacher’ … in less than three months, I was able to communicate with her in Ladino. I don’t think I could fully understand everything but we somehow managed to talk with each other. [Reina]  Our domestic help were Bulgarian girls and we spoke Bulgarian with them. [Ivet]  In the years when the first socialist government came into power … gradually Judesmo [Ladino] stopped being the language of my family. During socialism, we did not speak Judesmo. [Ivet] 25
  26. 26. The local zone of the Sephardim in Bulgaria (1)  In Plovdiv, my father used to go to the Jewish club every day. He played cards with his friends. All their jokes, curses and playful bantering were done in Judesmo. [Eli]  When she was young, my paternal Grandma Blanca regarded herself a modern young woman and tended to speak Bulgarian only. In those times, they apparently believed that speaking Ladino was something that only the lower classes did, or just old women anyway. Competence in correctly spoken literary Bulgarian was very highly valued. [Andrey]. 26
  27. 27. The local zone of the Sephardim in Bulgaria (2)  A terrible pressure for integration was exerted, both from the inside and from the outside. I grew up in the Jewish neighbourhood where we spoke Bulgarian with a distinctive accent. [….] We did not like sticking out like this and did our best to get rid of the accent - so that nobody could tell. [Aron]  When I started singing in the Dulce Canto choir we sang Ladino songs there and I felt I was able ‘to hear’ this language and identify with it. [Solomon]  Ladino is like a live coal hidden among the ashes [Aron] 27
  28. 28. The ‘diasporic’ zone of the wide Sephardic community (1)  We became ‘Bulgarian Jews’ only 70-80 years ago. Before that we used to be Balkan Jews. Should we find ourselves among Jews from other Balkan countries, there would hardly be anything to make us inherently different from each other – except for the language our passports have been written in. We do things in similar ways. Everywhere on the Balkans I feel at home. [Solomon] 28
  29. 29. The ‘diasporic’ zone of the wide Sephardic community (2)  I do business with people from Istanbul, in Turkey […] Half of my communication goes in Turkish, the other half – in Spanyol. [Aron]  In Jerusalem, I set out to see the Holocaust museum. As it was closed I wanted to find out about the working hours and came across a man from Egypt who spoke Spanyol. When we finished talking he said to me, “If you walk a bit further, you’ll find another guy who can also speak Spanyol.” [Sami] 29
  30. 30. The ‘diasporic’ zone of the wide Sephardic community (3)  At this event, I had the chance to speak Ladino with the ex-president of Israel, Yitzhak Navon. Navon himself was born in Israel but, in his family, Ladino had been spoken for centuries. He was Chair of the Sephardic Institute in Israel. We communicated in Ladino and understood each other perfectly well. There were differences in the way we spoke it but this didn’t surprise me. Over the centuries, Spanyol had absorbed features from many other languages. [Sami] 30
  31. 31. The ‘diasporic’ zone of the wide Sephardic community (4) • I’ve come across people from other Sephardic communities […] I met a Jewish guy from Cuba once. We spoke and our conversation resonated with something deep inside me and we both felt we belonged together. [Solomon]  … my paternal grandma Lisa – she had so many books in Spanyol; she used to buy these books in Plovdiv, but also in Istanbul, and bring them back with her. Small books, beautifully bound, linking us together [Gredi] 31
  32. 32. The international community of Spanish speakers (1)  I remember my first visit to Spain, quite an emotional experience. I felt completely comfortable in the Spanish speaking context and was pleasantly excited by listening to the people around me and being able to understand. Away from home and my own country, I still had this amazing sense of being in a linguistically familiar context. I said the last couple of sentences of my presentation in Judaesmo- Espanyol. It may have all sounded ridiculous and primitive because I had never specially studied Judaesmo, but it was received well. People applauded me. … I felt at home and an insider. [Eli] 32
  33. 33. The international community of Spanish speakers (2)  Have you ever heard Cubans speak Spanish? They tend to swallow their consonants and it’s hard to understand them. For a whole week I kept my mouth shut and did not dare speak. By and by, I gathered courage and would put in a Ladino word here and a word there. […] The the response of the Cubans was twofold. First, they thought they heard somebody who had risen from their grave. So obsolete was the language I produced. They were enormously delighted and would make me repeat what I said, time and time again. [Aron] 33
  34. 34. The international community of Spanish speakers (3)  I expressed myself by capturing the root of a word and then attached different things to it. The result was a mongrel-like language, a mixture of everything. But I managed to get around through this approximation of the Spanish language. [Gredi]  I bought myself a Spanish textbook. In Sofia, I became friends with a man from Cuba and learned a lot of Spanish words from him. When I write email messages to my friends, I try to write them in Spanish. My vocabulary has increased and I make efforts to use the correct words. [Itsko] 34
  35. 35. The international community of Spanish speakers (4)  When we first met, I spoke to her in Ladino. I was amazed that Reyes could understand what I was saying and importantly, I could understand her too. [Reina]  […] was keen to hear the language which he had never heard anybody speak before. The time we spent together made me aware of the special attitude the Spanish have for us, Sephardic Jews: they find it truly amazing that not only have we preserved Ladino for five centuries but we also cherish the warmest sentiments for Spain itself. [Reina] 35
  36. 36. Our research project  Narrative study - the Ladino-focused life stories of a largely elderly group of Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria  Moving from an exercise in oral history towards a statement of what these individuals did and do with their Ladino skills  Evolving from a framework of their Ladino framed lives to a more generally applicable conceptualisation 36
  37. 37. Origins of our conceptual model  Evolving as a by-product of our main focus on the storytellers’ narrativised understandings of Ladino  Developed inductively rather than framed in existing models of ICC  Shared set of ways of working with and understanding the intercultural  A prior initial attempt to work with zones of interculturality  A sense of identity work through narration 37
  38. 38. The model: Zones of Interculturality 38
  39. 39. Zones of interculturality  From the most personal to the most global  Increasing or decreasing the number of zones  Fluidity between the zones  The langua-cultural resources of the participants  Work in progress 39
  40. 40. An invitation to engage: telling your story • Bearing in mind the conference themes of IC encounters, migration, languages and identity and the Ladino stories and our research related to them what does this make you think of? • What story can you tell triggered by the excerpt in the handout? • Begin like this: This story makes me think of … … 40

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