SOAS University of London

Centre for Palestine Studies

The Question of the Arab-Jew and Judeo-Arabic: Nation, Partition, and the Linguistic Imaginary

On the Arab-Jew, Palestine and Other Displacements Ella Shohat
Ella Shohat, New York University

Date: 28 June 2017Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 28 June 2017Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

On the Arab-Jew, Palestine, and Other Displacements: Selected Writings (Pluto Press, 2017) gathers together some of Ella Shohat's most influential essays, interviews, speeches, testimonies, and memoir-pieces, along with a few previously unpublished texts. A key thread in the book engages the intimate and interlocking relationships between “the question of Palestine” and “the question of the Arab-Jew.” Defying the binarist Arab-versus-Jew rendering of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Shohat’s work has dared to engage the undergirding issues swirling around Orientalism, colonialism, nationalism, and Zionism. Like the inter-communally shared space of historical Palestine, the Arab-Jew here is a reminder/remainder of the variegated multiplicity of Arab cultural geographies. Both “Palestine” and “the Arab-Jew” in this sense form not only tropes of loss but also figures for visionary cross-border possibilities.

In conjunction with the book’s publication, Shohat will deliver a lecture that examines linguistic belonging as invented within national and colonial itineraries. More specifically, it explores the genealogy of the concept of “Judeo-Arabic language” and its axiomatic definition as a cohesive (specifically Jewish) unit separate from Arabic, and classifiable under the historically novel rubric of isolatable “Jewish languages” severed from their neighboring dialect/languages. Does the notion of “Judeo-Arabic” correspond to the designation by the speakers of that language themselves or rather to a paradigm influenced by post-Enlightenment Judaic studies and Jewish nationalism? And in the wake of the colonial partition of Palestine and the displacement from Arabic-speaking cultural geographies, how should we regard the salvage project for an “endangered Judeo-Arabic?” What are the phantasmatic aspects of a conceptual framework that has left a linguistic practice both rejected and desired?

Professor Ella Shohat teaches Cultural Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at New York University. Her books include: Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Duke Univ. Press, 2006); Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (Univ. of Texas Press, 1989; Updated Edition with a new postscript chapter, I.B. Tauris, 2010); Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age (MIT & The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998); Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation and Postcolonial Perspectives (co-edited, Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1997); Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora (co-edited, The Univ. of Michigan Press, 2013, Honorable Mention in the Non-Fiction Category of the 2014 Arab American Book Award, The Arab American Museum); and with Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism (winner of the Katherine Kovacs Singer Best Book Award,  Routledge, 1994; 2nd Edition for the book’s 20th Anniversary, with a new Afterward chapter, Routledge, 2014); Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality and Transnational Media (Rutgers Univ. Press, 2003); Flagging Patriotism: Crises of Narcissism and Anti-Americanism (Routledge, 2007); and Race in Translation: Culture Wars Around the Postcolonial Atlantic (NYU press, 2012). She co-edited a number of special issues for the journal Social Text, including “Edward Said: A Memorial Issue,” “Palestine in a Transnational Context,” and “911-A Public Emergency?” while her writing has been translated into over 10 languages. Shohat has also served on the editorial board of several journals, including: Social Text; Middle East Critique; Meridians; Interventions; and Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication. She is a recipient of such fellowships as Rockefeller; the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, where she also taught at The School of Criticism and Theory; the NYU Humanities Initiative fellowship (with Sinan Antoon) for “Narrating Iraq: Between Nation and Diaspora;” and Fulbright research / lectureship at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, for studying the cultural intersections between the Middle East and Latin America.  Recently, Shohat has been examining “the question of the Arab-Jew” in conjunction with “the question of Judeo-Arabic.” Her book On the Arab-Jew, Palestine, and Other Displacements, which comprises of her selected work since the 1980s, has just been published by Pluto Press.

Discussant: Yair Wallach, SOAS

Chair: Gilbert Achcar, SOAS

Organiser: Centre for Palestine Studies and Centre for Jewish Studies

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