21 students

Featuring:

Lecturer: Professor Giuseppe Cecere is an Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Bologna. His research mainly focuses on Sufi’s “presence” in the multicultural and multi-religious context of Egyptian society, from medieval to contemporary times.

Guest Speaker: Professor Mattia Di Taranto is an Adjunct Professor of German Literature at the University of Eastern Piedmont. His main field of research is the reception of ancient Rabbinic texts in modern German-Jewish and Yiddish literature.

The course is part of the JAWHAR project, directed by Giuseppe Cecere (University of Bologna)

JAWHAR is an acronym for « Jews in the Arab World: History, Artifacts, Representations » but also an Arabic word meaning ‘jewel, gem’ as well as ‘genuine part’ of something. 

The basic idea behind this acronym is that far from being a “foreign body”, the Jewish presence is part and parcel of the history and culture of the Arab World for millennia.

With this in mind, the project aims to show how deep and varied interactions ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs’ have had in different fields of social, intellectual, and even religious life, ranging from material culture to science, from literature to mystics, before and after the advent of Islam, from the so-called Jāhiliyya (“pagan time”) to contemporary Arab world.

This general objective will be pursued by working on three main areas:

History aiming to investigate historical realities of Jewish presence in the Arab world throughout time and space, first by providing updated information on the current historiographic debate;

Artifacts exploring the rich and varied artistic and artisanal production of “Arab Jews”, from architecture to music, from music to book crafting to material culture;

Representationsanalyzing representations of ‘others’ and ‘self’ produced « by Jews » as well as « on Jews » (especially by Christian and Muslim authors) in different times and regions of the Arab world, as a key element for understanding long-term processes of identity construction, conflicts of memory, dynamics of legitimization and delegitimization of the Jewish presence in the Arab world;

The working assumption of this project is that current dynamics of Antisemitism can properly be understood only on the backdrop of Longue durée historical processes and that fostering public awareness and academic research on centuries of shared history between ‘Arabs’ and ‘Jews’ may contribute a great deal in promoting dialogue and mutual understanding.

With this aim, this four-part online course has been conceived as an introduction and an ‘appetizer’ to the wider project.

January 12th: General introduction

This lesson will provide an overall view on history and representations of the Jewish presence in the Arab world, from pre-Islamic Hijaz to the modern Middle East and North Africa. In this framework, special attention will be paid to narratives concerning Jews in Arabic pre-Islamic literature, as well as to Shlomo Goitein’s notion of « Mediterranean society » and to some of the most recent historiographic trends on Jewish-Arab relations in pre-modern times (with special focus on works by Paul Fenton, David Littmann, Norman Stillman, Mark Cohen).

January 19th: Narratives on Others and Self

This lesson will focus on representations of « others » and « self » in Arabic Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources during the Middle Ages. This will allow us to highlight processes of self-identity construction and definitions of « otherness » (and consequent « otherising » practices) produced by different religious communities living in one and the same space, with a wide array of possible solutions, ranging from discrimination to cooperation, from conflicts of memories to spiritual encounters. In this framework, special attention will be paid to medieval Egyptian society, especially in the Ayyubid and Mamluk times (late 12th to early 16th century), for several reasons:

a) the crucial role played by Egypt in world history at that time;

b) the extremely rich and varied, though puzzlingly fragmented, documents on Jewish social and spiritual life provided by the Cairo Genizah;

c) the activity of the great Jewish thinker Moshe Maimonides; and,

d) the existence of a unique phenomenon of ‘spiritual contact’ (between encounter or emulation/competition) known as « Jewish Sufism ».

January 26th: An Arab Jewish Utopia in the Twentieth Century? Exploring Pan-Semitism

Professor Di Taranto will provide insight into Pansemitism, a cultural phenomenon of the utmost importance for the history of Jewish thought as well as for the study of Arab-Jewish relations in the first half of the 20th century. In the light of growing antisemitism in Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the century, many Jewish intellectuals began to dispute the former European-oriented model and to develop a pessimistic view of European civilization, adopting an “Orientoriented” Weltanschauung in which the Semitic origins of the Jewish people were greatly emphasized. It is particularly interesting for our analysis to underline how the claim of the “ethnic” bond and the cultural proximity between the two “Semitic brothers” – namely Arabs and Jews – played a pivotal role in the works of a noteworthy number of thinkers. A significant example in this respect is represented by the writer and reporter Eugen Hoeflich (i.e. Moshe Ya’akov ben-Gavriel, 1891-1965): in his magnum opus, Die Pforte des Ostens (The Gate of the East, 1923), he compares and contrasts Western world (Europe and America) and Asia, the latter symbolizing all values of spirituality, morality, harmony with nature) on which society was supposed to be founded.

February 2nd: Rediscovering Arab Jews: From Conflict of Memories to Mutual Nostalgia?

This lesson will provide an overview of literary and artistic production concerning the history of the Arab Jews in recent decades. The selected material analyzed in this lesson will range from the memorial and autobiographical writing by Jewish authors born in Arab countries, to a number of works produced by Muslim intellectuals and artists in the last few years. The works express complex and often most tolerant attitudes towards a “presence” that is felt and presented as part and parcel of the authors’ respective national communities as well as of the Arab world as a whole, far from negative stereotypes often marking the « discourse on Jews » on both sides of the Mediterranean.

  • Session 1: General introduction; Professor Giuseppe Cecere

    Lesson n.1 will provide an overall view on history and representations of the Jewish presence in the Arab world, from pre-Islamic Hijaz to modern Middle East and North Africa. In this framework, special attention will be paid to narratives concerning Jews in Arabic preislamic literature, as well as to Shlomo Goitein’s notion of « Mediterranean society» and to some of the most recent historiographic trends on Jewish-Arab relations in pre-modern times (with special focus on works by Paul Fenton, David Littmann, Norman Stillman, Mark Cohen).

    No items in this section
  • Session 2: Narratives on Others and Self; Professor Giuseppe Cecere

    Lesson number two will focus on representations of « others » and « self » in Arabic Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources during the Middle Ages. This will allow to highlight processes of self-identity construction and definitions of « otherness » (and consequent « otherising » practices) produced by different religious communities living in one and the same space, with a wide array of possible solutions, ranging from discrimination to cooperation, from conflicts of memories to spiritual encounters. In this framework, special attention will be paid to medieval Egyptian society, especially in the Ayyubid and Mamluk times (late 12th to early 16th century), for several reasons: a) the crucial role plaid by Egypt in world history in that time, b) the extremely rich and varied, though puzzlingly fragmented, documents on Jewish social and spiritual life provided by the Cairo Genizah ; c) the activity of the great Jewish thinker Moshe Maimonides ; d) the existence of a unique phenomenon of ‘spiritual contact’ (between encounter or emulation/competition) known as « Jewish Sufism ».

    No items in this section
  • Session 3: An Arab Jewish Utopia in the Twentieth Century? Exploring Pan-Semitism; Professor Mattia di Taranto

    Professor Di Taranto will provide an insight into Pansemitism, a cultural phenomenon of the utmost importance for the history of Jewish thought as well as for the study of Arab-Jewish relations in the first half of the 20th century. In the light of growing anti-Semitism in Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the century, many Jewish intellectuals began to dispute the former Europeanoriented model and to develop a pessimistic view of European civilization, adopting an “Orientoriented” Weltanschauung in which the Semitic origins of the Jewish people were greatly emphasized. It is particularly interesting for our analysis to underline how the claim of the “ethnic” bond and the cultural proximity between the two “Semitic brothers” – namely Arabs and Jews – played a pivotal role in the works of a noteworthy number of thinkers. A significant example in this respect is represented by the writer and reporter Eugen Hoeflich (i.e. Moshe Ya’akov ben-Gavriel, 1891-1965): in his magnum opus, Die Pforte des Ostens (The Gate of the East, 1923), he compares and contrasts Western world (Europe and America) and Asia, the latter symbolizing all values of spirituality, morality, harmony with nature) on which society was supposed to be founded.

    No items in this section
  • Session 4: Rediscovering Arab Jews: From Conflict of Memories to Mutual Nostalgia?; Professor Giuseppe Cecere

    Lesson number four will provide an overview on literary and artistic production concerning the history of the Arab Jews in recent decades. The selected material analysed in this lesson will range from memorial and autobiographical writing by Jewish authors born in Arab countries to a number of works produced by Muslim intellectuals and artists in the last few years and expressing complex and often most tolerant attitudes towards a “presence” that is felt and presented as part and parcel of the authors’ respective national communities as well as of the Arab world as a whole, far from negative stereotypes often marking the « discourse on Jews » on both sides of the Mediterranean.

    No items in this section
  • Reading List
$100.00