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Department of the Study of Religions

Dr Jennifer Langer

MA (London), PhD (SOAS)

Overview

Jennifer Langer
Centre for Jewish Studies

Member

Centre for Iranian Studies

Member

Name:
Dr Jennifer Langer
Email address:
Thesis title:
Exile from Exile: The Representation of Cultural Memory in Literary Texts by Exiled Iranian Jewish Women
Website:
http://www.exiledwriters.co.uk/

Biography

Jennifer Langer gained her PhD (2013) from SOAS, University of London and holds an MA in Cultural Memory from the University of London Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, the School of Advanced Study. She has presented papers on her PhD research at the SOAS International PhD Conference on the Middle East (May 2011) and for the SOAS Centre for Jewish Studies (February 2011).

She is founding director of Exiled Writers Ink and has edited four anthologies of exiled literature including Crossing the Border: Voices of Refugee and Exiled Women Writers (Five Leaves 2002) and If Salt has Memory: Jewish Exiled Writing (Five Leaves 2008)

Jennifer Langer received a 2011 award from the Hadassah Institute of Brandeis University, America which includes the possibility of publishing her PhD as a book.

PhD Research

My thesis examines the question of alienation and belonging in Iran and in exile as it arises in the representation of cultural memory in literary texts by exiled Iranian Jewish women. I establish a contestation between the textual protagonists’ Jewish, Iranian and female identities and exile as a mnemonic site for negotiating a fusion of identities. My work thus seeks to contribute to a heterogeneous nature of the relationship between Jews and gender since the narrative of Iranian Jewish women is barely acknowledged in scholarship on Iranian Jews or in studies of Iranian women. My thesis contributes to the growing, but still insufficiently disseminated, body of literature on Mizrahi Jewish identity. I challenge the dominant scholarly representations of the relationship between Iranian Jews and broader Muslim Shi’a society as straightforwardly polarised and complicate Jewish notions of exile which hitherto have focused on a more Zionist narrative where the object of yearning is Israel.
My research is based on six novels and memoirs created in American and Belgian exile and represents Iranian Jewish women in the context of shifting state and religious ideologies during the Shah’s reign and the subsequent Islamic regime. All the literary texts are sites of resistance and denial and represent the innate desire of the Iranian Jewish women to be seen as belonging to Iran whilst resisting their rejection as Jews. Exile seemingly offers the protagonists the opportunity to define their identities rather than accepting definitions by others in which Iranian and Jewish identities are invariably polarised. To achieve belonging to the Iranian nation, exiled Iranian Jews uphold the importance of Iranian Jewish history and memory. The re-instatement and glorification of Iranian Jews in the Iranian narrative of nation is crucial for some yet an ambiguous space results from the co-existence of imagined belonging with victimisation and exclusion.

PhD Publications

  • Book Review pending: ‘From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture‘ Journal of Modern Jewish Studies.
  • Book Review: ‘The Septembers of Shiraz’ Jewish Quarterly Winter 2007: p. 208.
  • ‘Crossing borders: The extent to which the voices of exiled and refugee women have adapted to their new Western diasporic space’ Journal of International Women’s Studies, 2004, 5:3, pp. 66-74
  • ‘Crossing the Border: Voices of Refugee and Exiled Women Writers’ in Spinning Lifelines: Women’s Autobiographical Writing edited Lucy Lewis (2003) Glasshoughton: Yorkshire Art Circus.
  • ‘Migration: Refugee Women’s Narratives in Great Britain’ in Volume IV, Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, (2003), edited Suad Joseph, Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Editor of the following books on literature and exile:

  • The Bend in the Road: Refugees Writing (1998) Nottingham: Five Leaves.
  • Crossing the Border: Voices of Refugee and Exiled Women Writers (2003) Nottingham: Five Leaves.
  • The Silver Throat of the Moon: Writing in Exile (2005) Nottingham: Five Leaves.
  • If Salt Has Memory: New Writing by Jewish Exiled Writers from Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East (2008) Nottingham: Five Leaves.

PhD Conferences

  • ‘The Struggle for an Iranian Jewish Female Identity’ at ‘Border Crossings: New Directions in the Study of Gender at SOAS’, Centre for Gender Studies Symposium, SOAS, May 2013.
  • ‘Alienation or Belonging: the representation of cultural memory in contemporary literary texts by exiled Iranian Jewish women writers’ at ‘State, Society and Economy in the Modern Middle East’, International PhD conference at SOAS, University of London, May 2011.
  • ‘The negotiation of trauma in literary texts by exiled Iranian Jewish women writers’ at SOAS Centre for Jewish Studies, February 2011.
  • ‘The Exilic Memory of an Iranian Jewish Woman’ at Leeds University, Arts and Humanities Research Council Post-Graduate Seminar ‘Diasporas, Migration and Identities’ December 2006.
  • ‘Crossing Borders: the extent to which exiled and refugee women have adapted to their UK diasporic space as represented in their literary texts’ at ‘Fortress Europe and its Others’ Conference: Cultural Representation in Film, Media and the Arts, IGRS, University of London, UEL and Third Text, April 2005.
  • ‘Women in Exile: The Case of Great Britain’ at ‘Femmes, Migration et Droits Humains’ conference, King Hassan II University, Casablanca, April 2002.

Research

Philosophy; Critical and Literary Theory; Cultural Memory; Gender; Exile and Diaspora; Mizrahim and Sephardim; Iranian Literature; Iran; Literary representations of Islamic-Jewish dynamics in multiple contexts.

I aim to publish my research and to work in a post-doctoral capacity. The award from the Hadassah Institute of Brandeis University, 2011 includes the possibility of the University of New England Press publishing my PhD as a book.