This post is part of the two-part special series of GPU’s podcast, “Aesthetics and Research in International Politics”, which examines non-conventional IR research methods.
In September 2022, I had the chance to visit Dr. James Eastwood’s Empty Cradles: Israel’s Disappeared Children exhibition at SOAS Brunei Gallery. Centered on the testimonies of families whose children were forcibly removed in the 40s and 50s in Israel, the exhibition’s archival, photographic, and monumental translation work shed light on the political, colonial, and racial dimensions at the heart of a controversy still boiling in Israel today.
Why would a scholar dissect complex subjects, such as imperialism or racism, through an exhibition and not a traditional academic paper? It’s pretty simple. No words or arguments could have summed up the pain I felt through the pictures and the sense of discomfort conveyed by the injustice implicit in the testimonies. Most importantly, No paper could have made me want to do more justice to these families than to hear their voices in their original language, Hebrew, echoing in the gallery.
Following my visit, I met James’ collaborators on the exhibition: Tom Pessah and Maayan Nahari, two activists working with AMRAM, the association seeking to reunite the missing children with their families together; Joanne Rosenthal, freelance curator, and museum consultant; and Raz Weiner, a post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion University, who helped James with the archival work between the UK and Israel.
Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. With this exhibition, James was able to combine theoretical and archival material in a way that convinced the audience to seek justice for these families. In addition to this, the exhibition space provided those who were affected with means to express themselves indirectly – via James’s work – and directly.
If you are interested in learning more, or if you believe that you might be able to help the families, you can find all information related to the Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan children’s Affair on AMRAM’s website: (https://edut-amram.org).