Lifta’s Ruins: The Presence of Absence
living heritage
spatial agency

The case of the depopulated village of Lifta complicates the terms and concepts of ruins, tangible and intangible heritage, memory, identity, and return. This article attempts to shed light on Lifta’s ruins from an archaeological perspective and reads ruins as incomplete texts that call for rewriting. This rewriting, I claim, unmasks gaps in heritage concepts and discourses that cannot capture memory, social practices, and material findings in a complex reality. I argue that the interplay between presence and absence makes Lifta into a living heritage site and a concrete testimony to traditions and meanings that unfold anew in every tour or memory practice. These practices constitute a compensatory mechanism for the awaited return, which have been mobilizing Liftawis and others to save Lifta. Further, these practices have made the archaeological remains into a polymer that binds Lifta’s displaced and dispersed descendants in a renewed social contract/commitment, whose ultimate focus is the notion of Return.

Author biography: 

Khaldun Bshara is an architect and a restoration specialist; he holds a PhD in socio-cultural anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. He joined the Riwaq Center for Architectural Restoration in 1994 in documenting, protecting, and restoring the built Palestinian heritage, and served as its director from 2010 to 2020. He continues as an advisor for Riwaq and is currently assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Birzeit University.