In the upcoming year, the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies will focus on the theme of “Mizrahim and the Politics of Ethnicity.” Under the leadership of co-head fellows Ruth Tsoffar, U-M Professor of Comparative Literature, Women's and Gender Studies, and Judaic Studies, and Ella Shohat, professor of cultural studies at New York University, thirteen scholars from three countries will explore interdisciplinary and intersectional conversations on the meaning of ethnicity in the study of Mizrahi (Arab-Jewish) culture. The group consists of a dynamic forum of scholars from a variety of disciplines aiming to reflect and further expand, diversify, and theorize the discussion of Jewish/Israeli society and culture.
Whereas Mizrahim 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 the Ashkenazi culture which has been dominant in contemporary Israel. 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.
The cohort looks to 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? The fellows will explore these themes together and share their scholarship via several public events throughout the year.
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.
The 2022–23 Frankel fellows and their fields of research are:
Merav Alush-Levron, Tel-Aviv University, “The Politics of Self-Representation in Contemporary Israeli Cinema and Television: Mizrahim Beyond the Construction of Loss and Subjection”
Gil Anidjar, Columbia University, “What's in a Frame?”
Shirly Bahar, Columbia University, “In Formation: Visualizing the Racialization of the Middle Eastern Jew, 1882 - 1948”
Rafael Balulu, Israel Institute of Technology, “Thoughts about the Possibility Offered by the 'Metaverse' on Mizrahi History and Aesthetics”.
Inbal Blau, Ono Academic College, “Mizrahi Discourse on Traditional Justice - The Cases of Ringworm Treatment and Yemeni Children in Israel”
Yali Hashash, Tel-Aviv University, “Mizrahi Feminism between Class, Religion, and Nationalism: A New Comparative Framework”
Gal Levy, The Open University of Israel, “"What Kind of Diversity Are We?": Reading Mizrahi from the Occident”
Liron Mor, University of California, Irvine, “Intention: The Racialization of Truth and the Literality of the Other”
Avner Ofrath, University of Bremen, Germany, “A Language of One's Own: Writing Politically in Judeo-Arabic, c. 1860 - 1940”
Yoav Peled, Tel-Aviv University, “Populist Protest: Class and Ethnicity in Mizrahi Political Behavior”
Daniel Schroeter, University of Minnesota, “The Global Politics of Moroccan Jewish Ethnicity During the Era of King Hassan II”
Naphtaly Shem-Tov, The Open University of Israel, “Contemporary Mizrahi Theater: Four Performing Mizrahi Frameworks in Israel”
Ella Shohat, New York University, “Language, Culture, and the Imaginary of Mizrahi Belonging: Re-membering the Arabic Past in the Hebrew Present”
Ruth Tsoffar, University of Michigan, “Reading as the Ethnic Subject: Bible, Feminism, Violence”
Erez Tzfadia, Sapir College, Israel, “Mizrahim and the Local Politics of Ethnicity in Development Towns”