• Creating Sepharad: Expulsion, Migration, and the Limits of Diaspora

    The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 represents one of the most significant diasporic moments in Jewish history. However, a shared diasporic consciousness among the exiles, what we might call the diasporic “stance” of the Sephardic world, was neither automatic nor universal. Rather, the interconnected challenges of migration, resettlement, and the re-formation of local and translocal communities was a process that endured for much of the sixteenth century, affecting the exiles and their descendants in different ways. This article traces the emergence of the Sephardic diaspora—both as a form of social organization and as a cultural concept—and explores the limits of Sephardic community and identity. My intention is to highlight the strengths and the limits of the diaspora model as a means of understanding the nature and development of Sephardic society in its formative phase.

  • Review Essay: The Transforming Landscape of Turkey’s Alevi Politics

    Review Essay:

    Elise Massicard, The Alevis in Turkey and Europe: Identity and Managing Territorial Diversity. New York: Routledge, 2013. 255 pp.
    Necdet Subaşı, Alevi Modernleşmesi: Sırrı Faş Eylemek. İstanbul: Timaş, 2008. 320 pp.
  • Yasir Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 271 pp.

    Yasir Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 271 pp.

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  • Exile, History and the Nationalization of Jewish Memory: Some reflections on the Zionist notion of History and Return

    The essay tries to analyze the notions of “history” and “return” in Zionist discourse in order to clarify their political and cultural implications. I investigate the meaning and function of the phrase “return to history”, commonly used for the description of Zionism, in two different sets of terminologies: the theological terms that defined Jewish-Christian polemics and the terms “culture,” “civility,” and “ethnicity” as used in the discourse of modern nationalism and colonialism. Accordingly I argue that the consciousness embodied in the phrase “return to history” meant the acceptance of the very terms and principles that generated the exclusion of the Jews in Europe. Thheologically and in the terms of premodern Christian-Jewish polemics, the phrase expresses an acceptance of the Christian perception of history of the Jews and their exile. On another level, the use of the modern national model of history for the representation of the Jewish past reveals the obvious Orientalist dimension of the secularization of the concept of history, as referring exclusively to the Christian West. In Zionist discourse both the theological-redemptive and the Orientalist aspects were integrated in a way that illuminated them both. Finally, the return to history and the return to the land meant the obliteration of the history of the land and the existence of its inhabitants. It also determined the removal of the Jews from the multiple local histories in which they had existed in exile in order to include them in one common, separate narrative. As a conclusion, I suggest to re-consider the options embodied in the concept of exile for an alternative way of thinking Jewish-Israeli existence and collectivity.

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    Hasan and Marika: Screen Shots from a Vanishing Egypt

    This essay analyzes an Egyptian comedy film from the late 1950s as a window—one of the last cinematically—into the vanishing world of Egypt’s minority populations in the aftermath of the Suez Crisis and in the midst of nationalization and Egyptianization. Hasan and Marika (1959) focuses on one particular community, Egyptian Greeks. It borrows heavily from ethnic/religious minority tropes from the long-standing canon of Egyptian film and theater, in particular several classic works that deal with Muslim-Christian-Jewish pairings. It speaks to broader issues of what some scholars have noted to be a shifting or narrowing Levantine ethos. Concurrently, it raises questions about social and cultural transformations in the immediate postcolonial moment. This essay reads the film within the contexts of Egyptian social and cultural history, the position of the Greek community, ongoing limitations to true social integration, and historical questions about the Greek community’s demise. It also reads the film as a deliberate, if at times whimsical, commentary upon Egypt’s changing social landscape, comparing it to other works and later nostalgic depictions of Egypt’s lost multiculturalism.

  • The Imagined Christian Ecumene and the Quest for Return: Christian IDPs in Israel and the 2009 Visit of Benedict XVI

    Soliciting transnational Christian authorities, such as the Holy See in Rome, and reaching out to an imagined global Christian ecumene are conventional strategies among Christians in the Middle East in their struggle to obtain benefits and negotiate their minority status at the local level. However, in the case of an internally displaced Greek Catholic village community in Israel—the people of Iqrith—when the quest for return to their destroyed 1948 village brought them into direct contact with the embodied representative of the Catholic ecumene—the pope—the practical goal of return became entangled with a more abstract and perhaps less conspicuous objective. The Christian ecumene became a field of imagination from which the people of Iqrith could challenge the restrictions experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and strive for global visibility. In May 2009, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel provided an opportune occasion for the materialization of an imagined Christian ecumene. This opening field of the imagination offered the people of Iqrith a way of short-circuiting the national, of inscribing the local within the global, and of “re-placing” their village on the imagined map of the world. Expressed from within the Christian ecumene, the quest for return became a means of circumventing Israeli policy and denial regarding their communal past, present, and future and of penetrating what Jean-Loup Amselle has called the “global market of identities.”

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  • The Palestinian Historiography of Family Leadership during the British Mandate

    This article seeks to expand the study of Palestinian Arab women’s self-identification and social and political activism by examining how Arab Christian women viewed, shaped, and managed their participation in the project of defining Palestinian national identity during the period of British colonial occupation. During the Mandate period, elite Christian women made particular use of mission schools and Christian women’s charitable organizations as platforms for promoting a vision of Palestinian nationalism as modern, nonsectarian, and politically progressive, in hopes of creating a Palestinian national identity in which they could claim a central role. As the Mandate wore on, though, it became increasingly evident that the presentation of Christian women as central to the expression of a broadly based, nonsectarian, modernizing, Westernizing Palestinian national identity was belied somewhat by the communal and class consciousness that education in elite Christian schools and membership in charitable organizations engendered. The way in which this purportedly middle-class, nonsectarian nationalist vision was developed and articulated in highly class- and communally conscious venues ultimately limited its purview and linked it with oppressive colonial practices in the eyes of much of the Palestinian Arab population.

  • Being Muslim and European Without Contradiction—Myth or Reality?

    The article reviews a critique of European modernity through the eyes of Bassam Tibi, a European Muslim sociologist. Tibi’s discursive analysis presents a detailed description of how an Islamic pluralism addresses the conceptual, philosophical, cultural, social, and political interpretations of Islam in a European context. His Islamic pluralism suggests the ways in which a secular interpretation of Islam can influence religion-state relations in Europe. Exploring the tensions resulting from being both Muslim and European, Tibi proposes that Muslims in Europe avidly maintain some basis of Islam within their identity, even if they adapt that interpretation to make it compatible with European norms and values. His perspectives are juxtaposed with Muslim intellectual opposition to a European Islamic pluralism that offers a basis for Islamic diversity in Europe. The article concludes that even Tibi’s moderate interpretation of Islam does not fully eliminate the inherent contradiction involved in being both Muslim and European, although he does suggest a means of bridging cross-cultural tensions.