Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums

Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums

Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums

Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums


A nostalgic interest in the past is a well-recognized feature of fast-changing, contemporary societies. It finds its expression in a variety of history-making practices of which the establishment of local heritage museums is a major manifestation in many parts of the world today. Katriel develops a communication-centered perspective on the study of heritage museums and -- by extension -- other tourist sites, highlighting the role of discourse in these institutionalized, yet vernacular contexts of cultural production, social legitimation, and identity formation.

Descriptive and critical in orientation, this book combines a close analysis of museum discourse with an exploration of such larger issues as:

• the socio-cultural role of museums as arenas for the production of collective memory,

• the ideological and performative constraints that shape museum presentations,

• the interfacing of verbal and visual codes of communication in the context of material displays,

• the dialectical interplay of the local and the global in contemporary life, and

• the interpenetration of the personal and the communal in vernacular processes of narrative production.

Of interest to scholars in communication, linguistics, anthropology, history, museum studies, tourism, intercultural communication, middle eastern studies, or those with interests in narratives, material culture, and ethnography.


The editorial mission of the "Everyday Communication" series is to provide a forum for scholarship addressing the relationship between communication and context. As editors we have not confined our work to a single definition or framework for the study of "context," and indeed across the several books currently in print no one level or approach to this has predominated. The monographs already published have demonstrated that there is no single object to be labeled "context," and that relevant contexts are both fluid and of varying sizes.

Tamar Katriel Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums interweaves many levels and types of context, and thus provides readers with a rich perspective on communication performances within and about Israel's pioneer museums. Katriel examines tour guides as they set about hosting visitors to one or the other of two such museums. At its most basic level, her analysis focuses on the interactional unfolding of each tour guide's narrative during particular tours -- how the physicality of each museum enters into the performance, how accommodations to the various audiences (Jews vs. Arabs, religious vs. nonreligious Jews) are embedded in each story, and what the guides envision they are accomplishing by their work.

But each tour performance is not only contextualized by the particular museum being presented and the particular kibbutz in which it is located. Katriel shows us that the tour performances invoke a master narrative about Israeli settlement, the multiple waves of immigrants to this land, and the relationship between Jewish and Arab inhabitants. This master narrative is accepted by some and rejected by others, but all participants in the museums' tours are positioned in relationship to it. The various discursive accommodations made to Mizrahi Jews (those from the Middle East and North Africa), religious Jews, and Arabs in the context of guided tours represent the ongoing struggle for identity, power, and self-determination of . . .

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