• Review Essay: Tormented By Politics

    Umut Özkırımlı, and Spyros A. Sofos,Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey (London: Hurst and Co., 2008), 219 pp.

    Kostopoulos, Tasos, Πόλεμος και Εθνοκάθαρση: Η Ξεχασμένη Πλευράμιας Δεκαετούς Εθνικής Εξόρμησης, 1912-1922 [War and Ethnic Cleansing: The Forgotten Side of a Ten-Year National Surge, 1912-1922] (Athens: Vilviorama, 2007), 319 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.

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  • Masquerade and the Performance of National Imaginaries: Levantine Ethics, Aesthetics, and Identities in Egyptian Cinema

    Egyptian films from the 1930s through the 1950s reflected the diversity of Egypt’s cities. This article argues that a subtle but notable shift in the semiotics of otherness—from a Levantine idiom to a less fluid construction of ethno-religious identity—occurs over this period in Egyptian cinema. Analysis of the films Salamah fi khayr [Salama is Fine] and al-cIzz bahdala [Mistreated by Affluence], both released in 1937, reveals what the author identifies as a “Levantine” idiom. These films articulate an ethics of coexistence, adopt a visual language of inclusion, and represent identity as fluid and mutable. Postwar “ethnic comedies” such as Faṭimah wa-Marika wa-Rashil [Fatima, Marika, and Rachel, (1949)] and Ḥasan wa-Murqus wa-Kohayn [Hasan, Marcus, and Cohen (1954)], continue to take Egyptian diversity for granted. However, as this article demonstrates, the characteristics that had defined Levantine cinema—ethics, aesthetics, and fluidity of identity—are no longer present. All the films under discussion treat ethno-religious and national identity as performance. However, that being said, the valences attached to the comic appropriation of an identity not one’s own via role play, assumed identities, and sudden, disorienting class mobility shift over time in nuanced but significant ways. In establishing the idioms of “Levantine cinema” and “ethnic comedies,” this article also takes as a counterpoint the 2008 film Ḥasan wa-Murqus [Hasan and Marcus] which draws upon these earlier Egyptian cinematic traditions in constructing its own discourse of coexistence.

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  • The Making of Palestinian Christian Womanhood: Gender, Class, and Community in Mandate Palestine

    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.

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  • Between Cultural and National Nahda: Jewish Intellectuals in Baghdad and the Nation-Building Process in Iraq

    This article focuses on the role of Jewish intellectuals in defining a national and cultural identity for their coreligionists in Iraq during the establishment of the state by the British in the years 1921 until 1932. Based primarily on their contributions in the press, their poetry and memoirs, this article discusses the responsibility that Iraqi Jewish thinkers and writers took on themselves in order to participate in the national and literary revival, the Nahda, from which they hoped the entire Jewish community would benefit. Their responses to anti-imperialist debates in Iraqi intellectual circles and stance on sectarianism and secularism is examined through analysis of the themes and terminologies used by three Baghdadi Jewish intellectuals: Nissim Susa (1900-1982) Anwar Sha’ul (1904-1984), and Mir Basri (1911-2006). Is there a common trend among these three regarding their perception of the nation? How is writing employed to foster national consciousness?

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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.

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  • Ali M. Ansari, The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 327 pp.

    Ali M. Ansari, The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 327 pp.

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  • Center or Frontier: Hungary and Its Jews, Between East and West

    In the history of Hungarian political thought, East and West served as counter concepts. The first part of the article presents and analyses the history of the Eastern and Western political orientations of Hungarian nationalism from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Key representatives of these orientations are presented with their versions of Hungarian “usable past.” Each orientation (Eastern or Western) views the second orientation as “other.”

    The second part of the article describes how Hungarian Jewish spokespeople dealt with Hungarian nationalism vis-à-vis growing anti-Semitism in Hungary in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Using the East-West metaphors, some Hungarian Jewish spokespeople tried to present Hungary’s anti-Semitic campaign as stemming from foreign, non-Hungarian sources.

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    Zionism, Binationalism, Anti-Semitism: Three Contemporary Jewish Readings of the Balfour Declaration

    The letter from the British foreign secretary to Lord Rothschild dated November 2, 1917—the Balfour Declaration—had a mixed reception in Jewish circles in Britain and beyond. This article focuses on the attitudes expressed in three texts that were more or less contemporary with the Declaration, all of them written by prominent Jews who were either British or temporarily residing in Britain at the time. I examine, in turn: a “Zionist Manifesto,” which appeared in the name of the London bureau of the (World) Zionist Organization under the joint signatures of Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, and Yechiel Tschlenow; “After the Balfour Declaration,” an essay by Ahad Ha’am; and an internal British Cabinet memorandum written by Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India, who was the sole Jewish member of the Cabinet in Lloyd George’s government. The angle of approach in this article is textual rather than historical: I analyze the logic and rhetoric that structure each text, with an eye to two topics that lie at the heart of Arab-Jewish confrontation in Palestine: (a) Jewish identity vis-à-vis nationhood and statehood, and (b) the existence of an Arab population in Palestine. The result is a kind of snapshot of an extended moment in time: a juxtaposition of three radically different Jewish European readings of the Declaration within three years of its being issued.

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