Nonverbal and Visual Contributions to the Analysis of Jewish Folklore and Ethnography: Methodological and Theoretical Considerations

Dana M. Ernst (Columbia University)

This paper draws upon ethnographic fieldwork and oral history research with elder storytellers who participated in the “Beit She’an Project” (Israel) and their descendants (Noy, Shenhar, and Bar-Itzhak, 1977-1979). Located on the “periphery” of the country, Beit She’an is one of several “development towns” where immigrants from North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities settled in the 1950s-1960s. This paper addresses a previously neglected dimension in the study of Jewish folklore -- the nonverbal, which involves paralinguistic, kinesic, and visual dimensions -- and argues that attention to the nonverbal and visual is critical to understanding its transmission. The potential for this new methodological and theoretical approach will be discussed as it relates to understanding intersubjective processes during narration, the construction and reconstruction of individual and collective memories, and the role of embodied and sensory experiences in memory and narration.

Part of 22-01 New Approaches to Jewish Folklore and Ethnology, Tuesday, October 19, 11:15 am–12:45 pm