Call for Papers: International Conference: Jews in Muslim Societies – History and Prospects

Date: 25.-27. October 2017
Venue: Jewish Museum Berlin

The W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Research Network Re-Configurations. History, Remembrance and Political Transformations in the Middle East and North Africa, located at Philipps-Universität Marburg, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg and “Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Europe” (EUME), a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien, invite papers for an international conference entitled “Jews in Muslim Societies – History and Prospects”. This conference focuses on Jewish communities past and present in Arab and Muslim societies.

Jews have long been declared outsiders in modern Europe, not least of all by ascribing to them an ‘Oriental’ character and pointing out their ‘Asian origins’. While Ashkenazi Jews romanticized medieval Muslim Spain as a utopian location where the hopes connected with Jewish emancipation in 19th century Europe had already been realized, they mostly looked down on their Jewish contemporaries living in Arab and Muslim societies. At the same time, thousands of Jews migrated from Europe to cities like Alexandria, Baghdad, Cairo or Istanbul in search for a better life. Until today, the history of Jewish communities in these societies is often ignored or underrepresented. But in recent years there is a growing attention to Jewish histories, cultures and memories, which is reflected in a stream of memoirs, novels, films, academic studies and in a growing interest in Jewish cultural heritage, in Israel as well as in Arab- and Muslim-majority countries. In some countries like Iran, Turkey or Morocco, larger Jewish communities exist to this day. In Israel, many Jews originating from countries like Iraq, Maghrebian countries or Yemen harbor considerable nostalgia for their former homes, and concepts of a Mizrahi (‘Oriental’) or Arab-Jewish identity have been introduced into debates about Jewish culture, identity, and politics in and outside of Israel.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel and the subsequent exodus of most Middle Eastern Jewish communities from their homes, Jewish-Muslim / Jewish-Arab relations have mostly been treated in the context of international relations between nation states, or with regard to inter-communal relations within Israel/Palestine.

This conference focuses on the neglected history and present of Jewish life in Arab and Muslim societies within and beyond the existing nation states, and it discusses questions of culture, identity and memory, self-identification and belonging, as well as prospects for ethno-religious diversity and intercommunal relations in the Middle East and elsewhere. We invite papers that address related issues from various disciplinary perspectives, including history, sociology, social anthropology, literary studies, media studies, comparative studies of religion, and Middle East area studies. Case studies with a focus on connectivities and (trans-)regional entanglements are expressly welcome.

The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2016. Please send an abstract including your affiliation and a brief biographical note (max. 300 words) to Conference2017@jmberlin.de. Travel and accommodation will be covered.

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