Jews and the Colonial Project

Instructor: Suzanne Schneider
The Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street New York
New York 10011

Depending on the source, it’s common to hear that the “Jews of Islam” either lived in conditions of intolerable oppression or within a multicultural utopia. As elements of the past are mobilized to justify both anti and pro-Zionist worldviews, the history of Jews who lived in Islamic lands has been refracted through the lens of recent political clashes.

By exposing students to the difficulties (and political stakes) involved in narrating this history, this seminar offers both a historical and theoretical introduction to the history of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. Particular attention will be paid to the era of European colonialism and the impact of colonial rule on Jewish-Muslim relations. Merging historical studies with literary, philosophic and biographical writings, this seminar will expose students to the major debates regarding the nature of Jewish identity, the proper orientation of Jewish culture and the appropriate forms of Jewish political activism.

The final weeks of the seminar will trace the legacy of this historical experience to contemporary “Mizrachi” politics in Israel, paying particular attention to how the past is put to use by both by both right and left wing forces. Readings will amount to approximately 100 pages per week and include selections from the following texts, all of which will be provided.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 25, 2014 — December 15, 2015
4 weeks