Molly Theodora Billings Oringer
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Los Angeles, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9919
Approve DateOctober 25, 2019
Project TitleOringer, Molly Theodora (California, Los Angeles, U. of) "Spatial Relations: Post-War Rehabilitation and the Afterlives of Jewish Terrains in Lebanon"
MOLLY THEODORA ORINGER, then a graudate student at University of Califonia, Los Angeles, California, received funding in October 2019 to aid research on ‘Spatial Relations: Post-War Reconstruction and the Afterlives of Jewish Terrains in Lebanon,’ supervised by Dr. Susan Slyomovics. This project contends that the history of Lebanon’s once-flourishing Jewish community is conceptualized by state powers and the public, in varying ways, as a representation of historical inter-confessional harmony. During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), Jewish synagogues, neighborhoods, schools, and cemeteries faced the same threats of destruction and abandonment as the greater built environment. Lebanese Jews, who stood at roughly 14,000 in the decade prior to the war, now almost exclusively live in the diaspora. Today, Jewish spaces have been refurbished by developers, repaired by diasporic groups, and adapted to house refugees. To understand how diverse relationships to the spaces of an absent minority group influence concepts of belonging among the Lebanese body politic, 21 months of ethnographic research was undertaken among those interfacing with — whether through voluntary involvement or the happenstance of living amongst — formerly Jewish spaces, This project also analyzes how political parties and elite state actors mobilize a Lebanese-Jewish past within a narrative that posits a uniquely Lebanese cosmopolitanism as essential to moving beyond ethno-sectarian violence. By examining notions of ‘Jewishness’ within the post-war state, this research shows how everyday interactions with the built environment construct discursive and social spaces within which people grapple with notions of social difference.