Georges Khalil and Ella Shohat

Writing the Arab-Jew: Reflections on Displacement and Middle Eastern Diasporas

This conversation between Georges Khalil (EUME/ Forum Transregionale Studien) and Ella Shohat (New York U / Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2020/21) addresses dislocations from the Middle East and their impact on identity, including within their European and American contexts. Since the 1980s, Shohat’s interdisciplinary work has been challenging the Arab-versus-Jew binarism, preeminent not merely in the political arena but also in the intellectual and cultural domains. Her transregional perspective resignified “exile,” “diaspora,” and “return,” revealing intricate landscapes of belonging. She theorized “the Arab-Jew” as a pivotal concept to convey not only tropes of loss but also of cross-border potentialities. Throughout her work, she has unpacked such fraught issues as: the links between “the two 1492s” (the Expulsion and “the Discovery”); the narrativization of Jewish pasts in Muslim spaces; colonial ruptures and the Orientalist splitting of “the Arab” and “the Jew;” as well as partition, displacement, and the anomalies of the national in which the “Ingathering-of-the-Exiles” produced new exilic situations. The conversation addresses her diasporic critical thinking, underscoring the substratal interconnectedness of usually segregated geographies, including between Arab spaces and the Americas. The conversation deals with writing linked to both the scholarly and the personal-memoirish contexts.

The conversation was part of The Middle East Union Festival 2021.

More information can be found on the Festival website.

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