Reconsidering Early Jewish Nationalist Ideologies Seminar: MT20 Week 6: Yuval Evri (KCL): The Return to Al-Andalus: Disputes Over Sephardic Culture and Identity Between Arabic and Hebrew

Conveners: Peter Bergamin and Yaacov Yadgar

Speaker: Yuval Evri (KCL)


Against the background of the tumultuous political and social events of the period and the processes of national, ethnic, and religious partitions that gained momentum during those years, the lecture explores the ways in which these Arab-Jewish intellectuals fundamentally challenged the nationalistic and monolingual separatist ideologies that characterized their times, and proposed an alternative political and cultural route. It looks at their efforts to establish a shared Jewish-Arab society based on a symbolic return to the Sephardi/Andalusian medieval legacy of Hebrew-Arabic bilingualism and a Judeo-Muslim joint cultural heritage. Instead of partition into two separate languages, identities, or traditions, they developed a model of a single multilingual and multi-religious cultural landscape. Thus, the fluidity that is inherent in these multiplicities becomes a source of resistance to the dominant monolingual and nationalistic forces, and dismantles any (national) claim over exclusive ownership of texts, traditions, or languages.

By exploring these contested representations of Andalusian identity and culture, the lecture re-examines some fundamental issues that emerged at the turn of the twentieth century: the national conflict between Jews and Palestinians, the contacts and splits between Hebrew and Arab cultures and the formation of ethnic hierarchies between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim.



Dr Yuval Evri is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Kings College. His research focuses on the cultural and political history of Palestine/Land of Israel at the turn of the 20th century. The issue of Sephardi and Arab-Jewish thought lay in the heart of his research and teaching interest. His current research traces multilingual translational and cultural models that emerged in the beginning of 20th century Palestine/Land of Israel and explores how the fluidity inherent in these cultural models becomes a source of resistance to the dominant monolingual forces, and to any exclusive claims of ownership of land, texts, traditions, or languages. His new book The Return to Al-Andalus Disputes Over Sephardic Culture and Identity Between Arabic and Hebrew was published by Magnes Press (2020).

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