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Past Events

The Romance Creoles are Not Bastard Tongues; they are Legitimate Offspring of their Lexifiers!
Professor Salikoko Mufwene, University of Chicago

Focusing on French creoles, Professor Mufwene shows that the Romance creoles are new Romance vernaculars that diverge from their lexifiers in ways similar to the divergence of the latter from Vulgar Latin. In some ways, the creoles are less divergent from their nonstandard lexifiers than the traditional Romance languages are from theirs, prompting us to factor in the significance of layers of language contact (during their longer history) in shaping the structures of neo-Latin vernaculars in Europe. Their non-rectilinear and non-unilineal evolutions also remind us of the competition that obtained among the numerous neo-Latin vernaculars within their national borders and the particular role of academies in aspiring at linguistic unity and artificially influencing their evolution. 

Ghostly Labor in the Levantine Prism of Jacqueline Kahanoff
Professor Amr Kamal, The City College of New York (CUNY)

Living in colonial Egypt, Jacqueline Kahanoff had a unique experience shared by the members of her class and generation. Kahanoff was a Jewish Francophone and Anglophone writer from Egypt born to Tunisian grandparents who owned a famous department store. Taking the store as a model for citizenship, she suggests an alternative notion of Mediterranean culture and Egyptian identity, which sought to decentralize European hegemony, a notion which she later dubs “Levantinism.” Amr Kamal analyzes her 1951 novel, Jacob’s Ladder, to examine the process through which Levantine culture developed amid several competing imperial and nationalist projects. In particular, he shows how the novel’s depiction of Levantine spaces documents the marginalized role of the working class in the education of elite Levantine society and its acquisition of cultural capital. His analysis also explores how the construction and sustenance of a celebrated image of the Levantine past depended on the racialization of labor, or what he calls “ethnic classism.” Through this latter process, a labor force made up of other Levantines was Orientalized and relegated to the background where it served to highlight a European-like Levantine cosmopolitanism.