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

Professor Ella Shohat, 2018 CMES Distinguished Visitor, will deliver a lecture on “The Question of Judeo-Arabic: Nation, Partition, and the Linguistic Imaginary.”

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 phantasmatic aspects of a conceptual framework that has left a linguistic practice both rejected and desired?

Prof. Shohat teaches at the departments of Art & Public Policy and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies at New York University. She has lectured and written extensively on issues having to do with post/colonial and transnational approaches to Cultural studies. Her writing has been translated into diverse languages, including: French, Hebrew, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, and Turkish, Shohat has also served on the editorial board of several journals, including: Social Text; Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies; Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism; and Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. She is a recipient of such fellowships as Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Lectureship / Research, and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, where she also taught at The School of Criticism and Theory.