• Beyond the Sea of Formlessness: Jacqueline Kahanoff and the Levantine Generation

    Monterescu develops the idea of Levantinism as a cultural mutation and draws the discussion toward a conceptual framework of purity and ambivalence. Monterescu sees Kahanoff’s writings as testimony to the cosmopolitan ambivalence of people whose home is the region surrounding the entire Mediterranean; he also argues that their relationship with the hegemonic national society can be framed and understood using Georg Simmel’s concept of the “stranger.” The struggle of the societies in the region against colonialism led to a rejection of everything “non-authentic”—that is, everything foreign or European. The emerging “pure” territorial nationalism juxtaposed the “pure” indigenous inhabitants and the cosmopolitan strangers with connections across the sea: the Greeks, Italians, Turks and the Jews. Following Zygmunt Bauman, Monterescu sees the Levantines as multidimensional strangers who are a part of colonial modernism. Cosmopolitanism and anticolonial nationalism, he explains, are complementary rather than incompatible options. Monterescu supports the call for the creation of a new anthropology of the Levant in which conqueror and conquered are trapped together, and in which the Levantine stranger helps to historicize and deconstruct the very category of indigenousness.

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  • Deborah A. Starr and Sasson Somekh, eds., Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011. 304 pp.

    Deborah A. Starr and Sasson Somekh, eds.,  Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011. 304 pp.

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