2019-2020 Seminar Series

Co-sponsored by the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (AHRC), artsmethods@manchester, German Studies (UoM), and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts and Languages (CIDRAL), the JMRN’s 2019-2020 seminar series invited leading researchers and thinkers from various disciplines to present new research in Jewish and/or Muslim studies.

A French Jewish-Muslim Panorama: Initiatives, Euphemisms and Elisions…
Samuel Sami Everett, University of Cambridge
Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 1-2:30pm
Room S3.6, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester

Le ‘Nouvel’ antisémitisme, antisémitisme V2, le retour, are all vernacular French terms for naming whilst eschewing the accusation of a specifically Islamic anti-Semitism that is purportedly prevalent amongst Muslims in and from the Middle East and North Africa. French language sociology has, at least since Pierre-André Taguieff’s La nouvelle judéophobie (2002), seen an abundance of work seeking to demonstrate this causality in more or less nuanced ways. Less developed in the social sciences however is the correlation between these theses of a purported ‘new’ anti-Semitism and a rise in ethno-nationalist anti-Muslim identification. Indeed, few balanced comparative studies of these forms of discrimination exist. Such work would, from an ethnographic standpoint, have to take account of both the predominantly intellectual Jewish contexts in which these terms have at times been coined (and have grown) as well as those intellectual Muslim contexts in which at times ambiguous forms of Judeophobic discourse have been produced without neglecting the French societal context into which these are embedded. In order to commence such a process, in this talk I draw a year-long participant observation of civil society initiatives and cultural producers in favour of, or indirectly addressing, the vast field of ‘Muslim-Jewish dialogue’ across the larger French conurbations. My interviews and experiences help to sketch-out a contemporary picture of discourse production and its dissemination. Exemplars of this production are the debates around Albert Bensoussan’s court hearing, which ended in 2019, and the reception of Houria Bouteldja’s book Les blancs, les juifs, et nous (2017). Whilst these affaires (Bensoussan and Bouteldja) highlight polarization, the post-Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kasher context may have also allowed for a more open discussion, beyond community-bounds, around Muslim North African cultural-linguistic legacies while maintaining honesty as to some of the geopolitical reasons for constructing a Muslim-predicated anti-Semitism.

“The Shīʿa are the Jews of Our Umma”: Rethinking Alterity in Medieval Islam
Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester, USA

Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 4-6pm
Seminar Room C, Crawford House, University of Manchester

This seminar examines Islamic studies’ unwillingness and inability to deal with minoritarian traditions, and argues that it differs little from the medieval heresiographical tradition. By farming out such groups (e.g., Jews, Shīʿa) to specialized subfields, we risk losing sight of Islam’s complexity, and in the process mistake Sunni Islam as the necessary historical outcome of the Prophet’s preaching rather than its contingent development.

Islam and the Diversity of Gender and Sexuality
Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, CALEM Institute, France
Wednesday, December 11, 2019, 2-4pm
Room A102, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester
In collaboration with the CIDRAL Key Ideas Seminar Series

In this seminar, drawing on material from his recent book Homosexuality, Transidentity, and Islam (Amsterdam University Press, 2019), Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed proposes to examine the entirety of Islamic scriptural sources that relate to the question of gender and sexuality in relation to their historical contexts. In doing so, he argues that homosexuality and transidentity have a legitimate place within the Islamic tradition. Zahed will also discuss the historical and contemporary socio-political impacts of inclusive and exclusive (or, quite simply, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic) interpretations of scripture. Thus, this seminar will analyse the connections between scripture, interpretation, and the politics of gender and sexuality in relation to Islam.

Subcontracting Guilt: Holocaust Memory, Culture and Immigrant Integration in Germany
Esra Özyürek, London School of Economics
Monday, October 14, 2019, 2-4pm
Room G35, Humanities Bridgeford Street Building, University of Manchester

A fundamental aspect of contemporary European, especially German, national identity is the necessity of coming to terms with the Holocaust and learning the ‘right’ lessons from it, above all the emotional and ethical lessons of empathy and tolerance. Following World War II, Muslim-background minorities arrived in large numbers in Western Europe to help rebuild the war-torn continent. Today these same immigrants, many of them second- and third-generation, are commonly accused of being unable to relate to Holocaust history, of remaining unsympathetic towards its Jewish victims, and of importing new forms of anti-Semitism. Accordingly, the German government, German NGOs, and Muslim-minority groups have together begun to organise an assortment of Holocaust education and anti-Semitism prevention programmes designed specifically for Muslim-background immigrants and refugees, so they too can learn the ‘right’ lessons from the Holocaust and thereby share in Germany’s most important post-War political values. Based on ethnographic research, this seminar suggests that recent debates about the responsibility of immigrants in shouldering Holocaust memory culture have the potential to draw those citizens without a European background towards post-Holocaust European values such as tolerance, democracy and empathy. However, we will also examine how these debates can drive such citizens away, by reproaching them for not having gone through the same stages of democratisation that Germans have gone through since losing World War II.

Breaking the Mnemonic Silence: Novelistic and Cinematographic Returns of Jewish-Muslim Intimacy in Morocco
Brahim El Guabli, Williams College, USA
Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 4-6pm
Room 4.211, University Place, University of Manchester

The life and memory of Moroccan Jews have been absented from official history and “tabooed” in institutionalized social memory for a long time. As a result of the Arab-Israeli struggle and the internal political strife in Morocco throughout the post-independence period (1956-1999), a multilevel silence was imposed on the memory of the departed Jews. Generations of Moroccans grew up ignoring the fact that that until fairly recently (1967) their cities and villages were teeming with a vibrant Jewish population whose lives were entirely entangled with those of Muslims. Literature and film, both in Arabic and French by Muslim Moroccans, recreates a world inhabited by both Jews and Muslims in order to account for Moroccan society’s loss of its Jews. This seminar proposes to explore literature and film as a locus in which historiographical forgetfulness is actively contested and as a mnemonic space in which a bygone world is recreated.