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2022-2023 Mizrahim and the Politics of Ethnicity

The Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan invites scholars for a residential fellowship in 2022-2023 to develop interdisciplinary and intersectional conversations on the meaning of ethnicity in the study of Mizrahi (Arab-Jewish) culture. Our goal is to gather a dynamic forum of scholars from a variety of disciplines, willing to reflect on the state of the field, and further expand, diversify, and theorize the discussion of Jewish/Israeli society and culture.

Whereas Mizrahim and their rich, diverse cultures have become more visible and prolific in Jewish and Israeli cultures, they are still underrepresented, even invisible, in Judaic and Ethnic Studies. In Israel and within global Jewish communities, Mizrahim have historically been constructed as 'Edot, ethnic groups, within a hierarchical discourse of Ashkenazi dominant culture. This has reduced a diverse group of people to essentialized objects of anthropological study, obscuring their complexity and interconnectedness. But once released from this binary paradigm, subjectivity and agency emerge, and the intersections of “the ethnic” within frameworks of gender, class, sexuality, queerness, and dis/ability can be rendered tangible.

We seek proposals from scholars who will explore and grapple with questions such as: What are the political, economic, and cultural challenges confronting people of Mizrahi descent? What are their struggles for inclusion and advancement in both Israel and abroad? How should we undo cultural myths and practices of exclusion? What should the critique of logical systems, categories and hierarchies in Israeli/Jewish culture be? What connections can we draw between the study of Mizrahim and that of Palestinians and other Minorities? How does one compare or translate ethnic relations and conflicts? How can we write new histories and narratives of Mizrahi experiences? How can scholarship on Mizrahim enrich conversations on ethnicity within Judaic Studies?

By bringing together a diverse group of scholars who approach the material from a variety of perspectives within the humanities and social sciences, the Frankel Institute hopes to develop new understandings of Mizrahim and the politics of ethnicity.