[P4846] Representations of Jews in Contemporary Arabic Literature

Created by Mostafa Hussein
Sunday, 11/19/17 1:00pm


Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, nearly 800,000 Jews were living in the Arab world. The years between 1948 and 1967, however, witnessed the extinction of Arabic-speaking Jewry from Arab countries for political, religious, and socio-economic reasons. After their departure from Arab states, Jews remained present in the Arab collective memory in some places, while they were absent in other territories like in Morocco. In the past, totalitarian and simplistic approaches lumped together the various representations of Jews under the rubrics of 'Arab attitudes towards Jews' and 'Arab views of Jews,' overlooking the specific details of socio-economic, cultural and political circumstances in different Arab states. In contrast, this panel aims at providing a more nuanced view supported by a thorough examination of the portrayal of Jews in Arabic literature from several Arab countries. By dwelling on fictional works from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and Morocco, this panel underscores the rather complicated view of the Jew found in Arabic literature in contemporary times. A close reading of recently published fictional works will show the ways in which evoking Jewish characters might supplement their absence from the collective memory of one Arab society, while modifying stereotypes about Jews that have circulated in another Arab community. In some instances, the Jew is used to valorize an ideal world in which Jews could live with other communities in the Levant despite the turmoil. In other writings, the Jew is brought back into the minds of readers to treat issues relevant to national identity. In still others, the Jew is used to restore pluralism by encouraging the acceptance of the other and tolerance of religious difference. By contrast, recalling the depiction of Jews in novelistic works in other Arab states reflect a pessimistic vision for the termination of pluralism in a given community.





Carol Bardenstein

(University of Michigan)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Emily R. Gottreich

(UC Berkeley)
Emily Gottreich is the Chair of both the CMES and the undergraduate major in MES at UC Berkeley. She is author of The Mellah of Marrakech: Jewish and Muslim Space in Morocco’s Red City (2007) and co-editor with Daniel Schroeter of Jewish Culture and...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Brahim El Guabli

(Princeton University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Mostafa Hussein

(Postdoctoral Scholar)
Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Katharine Halls

(American University in Cairo)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;