Public Lecture: “The Question of Judeo-Arabic: Nation, Partition, and the Linguistic Imaginary”
This lecture examines linguistic belonging as invented within national and colonial itineraries. More specifically, it explores the genealogy of the concept of “Judeo-Arabic language” and its axiomatic definition as a cohesive (specifically Jewish) unit separate from Arabic, and classifiable under the historically novel rubric of isolatable “Jewish languages” severed from their neighboring dialect/languages. Does the notion of “Judeo-Arabic” correspond to the designation by the speakers of that language themselves or rather to a paradigm influenced by post-Enlightenment Judaic studies and Jewish nationalism? And in the wake of the colonial partition of Palestine / Israel and the displacement from Arabic-speaking cultural geographies, how should we regard the salvage project for an “endangered Judeo-Arabic?” What are the phantasmatic aspects of a conceptual framework that has left a linguistic practice both rejected and desired?