Lecture-The Question of Judeo-Arabic: Nation, Partition, and the Linguistic Imaginary

Comments by Yuval Evri

This lecture examines linguistic belonging as invented within national and colonial itineraries. More specifically, it explores the genealogy of the concept of “Judeo-Arabic language” and its axiomatic definition as a cohesive (specifically Jewish) unit separate from Arabic, and classifiable under the historically novel rubric of isolatable “Jewish languages” severed from their neighboring dialect/languages. Does the notion of “Judeo-Arabic” correspond to the designation by the speakers of that language themselves or rather to a paradigm influenced by post-Enlightenment Judaic studies and Jewish nationalism? And in the wake of the colonial partition of Palestine / Israel and the displacement from Arabic-speaking cultural geographies, how should we regard the salvage project for an “endangered Judeo-Arabic?” What are the phantasmic aspects of a conceptual framework that has left a linguistic practice both rejected and desired?

Event jointly organised by Stanley Lewis chair of Israeli Studies,
School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College.