Arab Jews & The Writing of Memory


The seminar will focus on the writing of Arab-Jewish memory against the backdrop of the dislocation of Jews from Arab/Muslim spaces. The history of colonial partitions and the emergence of competing nationalisms have generated in their wake intricate narratives of belonging, where memory is mobilized, performed and staged from diverse even opposite perspectives. Foregrounding a “postcolonial study” framework, the seminar will raise questions concerning “home,” “homeland,” “diaspora,” “exile,” “nostalgia” and “return” in a context where Arabness and Jewishness, once closely linked, have come to signify enemy identities. While privileging the memoir and autobiographical genres, we will also discuss novels, films, travel and ethnographic literatures, in an attempt to examine the narration of this crossborder movement into a new context where such Arabness emerges as a taboo memory for Jews. We will address the complexities of Arab-Jewish relations as articulated largely in memoirs written over the past few decades. How have diverse writers remembered Arab/Muslim spaces within a context where the “Arab-versus-Jew” has been a dominant discourse? What are the consequences of the Euro-Israeli narration of a single Jewish history for the way Middle Eastern-Jewish writers address their belonging? At the same time, how has the “Arab-versus-Jew” discourse, common also to Arab nationalist discourse, impacted the identity of Arab-Jews? Analyzing the overlapping multiplicities of identities and affiliations, the seminar will try to go beyond a sometimes debilitating “nation-state” framework, highlighting diasporic writing in relation to diverse geographies. The readings are in English; some originally written in English, others in translation, largely from Hebrew, Arabic, and French

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Spring 2018

Ella Shohat
T: 4:55 PM - 7:35 PM KEVO LIBR