The Open Jerusalem project (full title: Opening Jerusalem Archives: For a connected history of citadinité in the Holy City, 1840–1940) is funded by the European Research Council (starting grant) from 2014 to 2019 and based at the Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée University in France. The project is directed by Vincent Lemire and run jointly with the researchers of the core team: Stephane Ancel, Yasemin Avcı, Leyla Dakhli, Angelos Dalachanis, Abdul-Hameed al-Kayyali, Falestin Naili, Yann Potin and Maria Chiara Rioli. Additionally, so far more than forty scholars from Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Canada have been involved in the project.
The Open Jerusalem project aims to unlock and connect different archives and sources in order to investigate the ordinary, entangled history of a global city through the lens of the concept of urban citizenship (citadinité). Citadinité is for a city what nationality is for a country and materializes itself in institutions, actors and practices. The project provides a bottom–up history of Jerusalem, a perspective that has been neglected by historians of the city, who have been generally preoccupied with ideological and geostrategic issues. This history is also a connected one because, within a complex documentary archipelago, the researchers seek points of contact revealing the exchanges, interactions, conflicts and, at times, hybridizations between different populations and traditions. The project is characterized by the scientific quality of its research tools, the close attention it pays to local archives and its unbiased openness to all demographic segments of the Holy City’s population. The transition of the project from an archival into an academic one is proceeding in three concurrent phases: the first involves creating an overview of the available resources, the second the organization of inventories and their presentation in a web portal and the third the development of a new urban history of Jerusalem from 1840 to 1940 through books and several other publications.
The project’s first international symposium, entitled “Revealing Ordinary Jerusalem (1840-1940): New archives and perspectives on urban citizenship and global entanglements,” is taking place at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies in Rethymno (Greece) on 10-12 May 2016. It aims to serve as a forum for deepening discussions and initiating scientific debates, with contributions from members of the Open Jerusalem team, scholars specializing in related topics, urban historians and specialists of the region.