Monday, July 14, 2008

The Invention of the Mizrahim

Professor (NYU) Ella Shohat

The Invention of the Mizrahim

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Autumn 1999): pgs. 5-20

Abstract: This essay examines the paradoxical effects on Arab Jews of their two rival essentialist nationalisms-Jewish and Arab. It shows how the Eurocentric concept of a single "Jewish History" cut non-Ashkenazi Jews off from their origins, even while the Zionist idea that Arabness and Jewishness are mutually exclusive gradually came to be shared by Arab nationalist discourse. The emergence of a new, hybrid identity of Mizrahim, as a product both of Israel's assimilationist policy and of resistance to it, is discussed. Finally, the author proposes an interdisciplinary framework-Mizrahi studies-as a way of going beyond hegemonic Zionist discourses while at the same time making a strong link to the Palestinian issue.

Ella Shohat is a professor of art, public policy, comparative literature, and Middle Eastern studies at New York University. Her Arab Jewish family is from Baghdad, Iraq and she is an Israeli citizen. She is has researched and lectured extensively on a variety of subjects and is a noted expert in Eurocentrism in art and literature, postcolonial studies, transnationalism, Orientalism (a manner of portraying, or misportraying, the Middle East and Asia), and the Mizrahim--a loose umbrella term comprising Arab, Kurdish, Central Asian, and Iranian Jews.


Judaeo-Arabic, a style of Arabic written with Hebrew letters by Arab, Kurdish, Berber, and other Eastern Jews which was developed during the classical and medieval Islamic periods in the Middle East and North Africa. The renowned Andalusian Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides wrote in both classical Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic, depending on his audience. Later in life, he was the family physician of Salah al-Din (Saladin), the famed founder of the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt/Syria and nemesis of the European Crusaders. Maimonides was profoundly influenced by Islamic philosophy and Islamicate cultures.

1 comment:

ماثيو said...

you see! that's why I always say that if you're going to live under the veil of ideology no matter where you live, you might as well see people in terms of class, it's a lot less messy that way!