Thank You for Dying for Our Country: Commemorative Texts and Performances in Jerusalem

Chaim Noy (2015), Thank You for Dying for Our Country: Commemorative Texts and Performances in Jerusalem

Part one: Signing In– this section involves discussions over the actual practice and performance of the act of writing. Noy argues this is a site for the embodied performance of different sets of knowledge and literacies (3). 

Chapter 1: Tourists’ Traces
Tourists’ traces refers to the actual written communication that embodies and reflects produced and consumed commemorative discourse. This chapter theoretically orients us to Noy’s objective; he is drawing on a large theoretical framework by which to dissect entries in the Ammunition Hill Museum visitor book. Performance based analysis of tourism practices helps us see these tourists’ traces as staged and everyday (6), aesthetic (how questions), and that a (per)formative power exists in repeating practices that reflect social institutions and structures (8). Also, Noy intersects performance based, tourism studies with the study of language; the performance-based study of language in tourism helps us understand inscriptions as reflexive of self and heritage (10). At this point, Noy has positioned his book at a nexus of three theoretical fields, but presses further to say that there is a materiality of the practice of writing in tourism. This allows us to examine the embodied act of writing and the medium through which one writes (15-16).

Chapter 2: The Ammunition Hill Museum: Authenticity, Bunkers, and Language Ideology
This chapter serves as an introduction to the space and its language ideology. The Ammunition Hill Museum is a site of ethnonational identity and commemoration (25) as it is the site of a major battle in the Six-Day War of 1967 and a museum of heritage and education (26). It is linked with two other heritage sites (the Western wall and Yad  Vashem, the main Holocaust site), making it significant to Sabra culture and social memory of Israeli Jews. Because the site is built on/from the ground where the actual battle occurred, there is an authentic, somber, and national-militiristic vibe that exists (28).

This site shapes language use of visitors using its own language ideology. Noy pulls from Woolard, Schefflin, and Gal to explain language ideology; “language ideology (or linguistic ideology) helps attune us to how language use is shaped by and how it embodies ideologies…Language ideology concerns how cultures, societies, and institutions promote representations and/or use of language or any linguistic related aspects over other” (30). He uses this premise to explain how visitors consume and produce national commemoration. Handwritten documents are combined with images from the war or symbols of the Israel state to tie writing practices with nationalism. First, handwriting is seen as an authentic mode of representing the past events (38); second, handwriting is also seen an authentic mode of “strengthening national commitment and re-inscribing collective memory” (39); and third, handwriting humanizes and moralizes the brutality of war (39). By the time visitors have reached the visitors book, they have been absorbing the site’s language ideology in what they have read and seen.

Part Two: Thank you for Dying for Our Country
Chapter 3: The Ammunition Hill Visitor book: Inside Out and Outside In

This chapter examines the materiality of the visitors book. This requires Noy to locate it; the visitors book isn’t by the exit as most books are, but instead is in the center of the museum (in a hallowed space). It is eerie and “profoundly symbolic” (50). The book helps transform “visitors’ personal impressions into public expressions” and compares and aligns them to other inscriptions (49). Physically, the book resides in the innermost hall of the museum while recitations play in the background. It is all to build up this deep solemnness and mindfulness (51). Even the instructions are in handwritten script. This all frames the participation and performance of visitors (53). As well, there is no pen provided for signing the books so visitors must be resourceful and personal about their writing utensil (56). The book is largely written in Hebrew with some English and no Arabic or Yiddish. Noy notes this discrepancy (57-58). Physical space, sounds, writing materiality all go into framing how one signs the books, but Noy makes the point that all of the inscriptions collectively linked to others inscriptions to create this narrative effect (64). Utterances are repeated and form a collective articulation and imagined collective narrative between participants (68). So the book’s materiality and affordances “illuminate how this device accomplishes mediation and the situated oerformance of ethnonational ideology (72).

Chapter 4: “I WAS HERE!!!”: Indexicality and Voice
Indexicality is a useful term for Noy to employ because it addresses how entries in the book interact with older posts. It helps creates a continuity between time and place (78). Deictics then become very important because they help us understand location and addressivity. The entry examples he gives an understanding of self/group identity and affiliation. These entries and their use of deictics “is pivotal in establishing the connections between the inscriber, the act of inscribing, and the place of its performance” (89). A “valid” entry in the book must copy the structure of previous entries.

Chapter 5: Articulating Commemoration
As a nice follow up to the preceding chapter, this chapter discusses the entries that follow the hegemonic narrative of the book/site as an ethnonational commemoration. The site is educational (104) and we can see this when tenets of entries are re-produced. Inscribing in the book combines a visitor’s biographical time and national/collective timeline (aligns the individual and national biographies) (107). It connects one with the collective past and collective future. Noy also takes a moment to talk about subversive entries that attribute the success of the war to God instead of soldier heroism (108-109). This chapter is one of the few places where Noy addresses language use (English to Hebrew-99, Yiddish to Hebrew-116). Probably the most valuable thing to take away from this chapter is the idea of the imagined audience vs. actual audience of heritage tourism as seen through oppositional entries..”Oppositional and critical entries tell of categories of counter-heritage and hyper-heritage tourists. These are audiences emotionally and/or ideologically committed to oppositional narratives, which both recognize the heritage narrative that the site publicly presents and publicly resist it” (122).

Chapter 6: “Write ‘I was impressed’ and Not ‘I enjoyed‘: Co-writing commemoration

Chapter 7: Gender and Familial Performances

Part Three: Signing Out

Chapter 8: “Like a Magazine Loaded with Bullets”: the VIP Visitor Book

Chapter 9: Ethnography (squared)

Chapter 10: Conclusions


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