EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2019/20
Dynamic Jewish-Muslim Interactions (“DJMI”) in Maghribi Material and Performative Cultures
17-18 September 2019, Camargo Foundation (http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/28764)
Co-conveners: Dr Karima Dirèche (Université Aix-Marseille); Dr Sami Everett (University of Cambridge); Dr Rebekah Vince (University of Durham)
Hosted by the Camargo Foundation, Cassis (France), this conference strengthened a recently established network of early career and more senior scholars alongside artists and musicians, all of whom explore Maghribi Jewish-Muslim interactions and performing cultures in North Africa and France. Following on from our conference held in December 2018 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge (UK), this second conference was a collaborative event between Aix-Marseille University (France) and the University of Cambridge (UK).
This event provided the framework for scholars to examine the multiple ways production and performance illustrate dynamic Jewish-Muslim interactions from the turn of the century to the present day, and to discern the benefits and drawbacks of emphasising universalism or particularity. The time period encompasses France’s attempts to emancipate and assimilate Maghribi Jews under colonial rule; decolonization which saw many of these Jews leave for France or Israel, as well as other countries; the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict; and rising antisemitism and Islamophobia across the Western world.
Our meeting in Cassis brought together a Euro-Mediterranean and transatlantic group of specialists (both researchers and practitioners), working across a wide range of genres, including music, theatre, film, religious architecture, and language. It provided the context for discussion around cultural encounters, influences, and cooperation between Maghribi Jews and Muslims to explore interaction, collaboration, and dialogue on both sides of the Mediterranean, with a focus on representation. Papers included interdisciplinary research and lively discussions on Judeo-Arabic (piyyut, matrouz, and the debate around the pertinence of the label ‘Judeo-Arabic’); Maghribi heritage; museum curation in Algeria, France, Israel, and Morocco; and the trajectory of objects and repertoires across time and space. There was also a strong focus on both amnesia and communication i.e. what we forget when we idealise artistic creativity and collaborative performance across community boundaries. We also discussed the ongoing difficulties that arise, on both sides of the Mediterranean, when discussing (intergenerational) transmission and re-appropriation in relation to the legacy of Jewish culture from North Africa. The conference will produce an edited volume that will be published by autumn 2020. When further funding is secured, we envisage an online pedagogical resource, drawing from our online archive of cultural artefacts and recordings to which we added more material at this event, as well as an interactive exhibit for a forthcoming exhibition at the Musée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration (MNHI) in conjunction with Cambridge Digital Humanities. We are extremely grateful to the European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS), CRASSH, and the Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL)-Cambridge collaboration scheme for their support and funding. We would also like to thank the Camargo Foundation for hosting us.
Conference rationale with a reflection on how the goals of the event have been achieved
Building on the success of our conference concerning the Dynamics of Maghribi Jewish-Muslim Interactions across the Performing Arts in December 2018, the aim of this event was to reunite and reinforce our research network while adding a creative element to the collaborative project, including the development of an interactive exhibit.
The purpose of the event was threefold:
- to interrogate the artistic and cultural outputs influenced by or resulting from Jewish-Muslim interactions in North Africa from the turn of the century to the present day;
- to discern how to integrate these performative artworks into university syllabi on courses that include a significant cultural and Jewish studies component; and
- to establish the material and presentation of a mobile, screen-based exhibition.
Increasingly, scholars are forging links across postcolonial studies, Jewish studies, decolonized trauma theory, and transcultural memory studies (Cheyette, 2018), while recognising connections between Orientalism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, (anti-)colonialism, and Zionism (Penslar, 2017). The purpose of this event was to interrogate these linkages within the multilingual context of North Africa, by drawing attention to Maghrebi Jewish-Muslim artistic depictions and creative cooperation in academia and the arts, in view of an interactive exhibition.
=> The discussions during the event centred on both chapter drafts for the edited volume and further material, with a focus on Maghribi heritage-making across religious boundaries, the legacy of North African religious architecture, and multilingualism.
The aim was to interrogate the threads that emerged from our previous event, fundamental to the establishment of the volume, the pedagogical resource, and the exhibition. These are:
- The role of humour in depicting Muslim-Jewish interactions, and satire as catharsis
- Absence/presence of Jews in the Maghrib as manifested in performance art
- The specifics of influence and aesthetics in performance relating to Jewish-Muslim interactions
- Memory and amnesia of Jewish life in Maghribi performative artwork
- Challenging stereotypes and assumptions through performative collaboration
=> the inclusion of Hadj Miliani, Jonas Sibony, and Neta El Kayam – experts in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, and music – enabled us to examine in detail the impact on performance of multilingualism, for example localized variants of Arabic in Maghrib/Mashriq as well as Judeo-Arabic; the shifts emerging in new generations of Israelis and French-speakers; and issues of translation/mediation.
We specifically addressed questions that emerged at the previous conference, notably:
- How to look at the specificities of cultural interactions within a temporal and geographical context without being blind-sided by presentist concerns, and cultural inclinations
- The need to develop a grammar to talk about the Maghrib in relation to Israel/Palestine without diminishing the importance of local interactions both historically and in the present
=> The heritage and curation focus of the event gave us a multidimensional perspective on the issues around heritage-making (patrimoinilisation) across the Mediterranean, as considered past exhibitions on Algerian heritage (Hadj Miliani, Naomi Davidson), Moroccan culture in Israel (Amit Hai Cohen), and Maghribi heritage in France (Mathias Dreyfus, Naima Yahi).
The inclusion of artists (Iris Miské) and musicians (Amit Hai Cohen and Neta El Kayam) gave us an alternative perspective on academia and highlighted the need to communicate with stakeholders beyond the confines of intellectual debate, integrating creative approaches to the subject material.
Finally, we discussed in-depth the design of an exhibition and the incorporation of our archive of cultural artefacts and video recordings of participants offering expert analysis collated at the two conference, taking into consideration narrative, interpretative material, funding, and public engagement.
=> The pedagogical toolkit and exhibit will be hosted at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, where the previous conference was held, in collaboration with Cambridge Digital Humanities Groups (CDH).
Overview and Threads
Session 1: Multilingualism, Aesthetics & Translation
Chaired by Karima Dirèche (Aix-Marseille), this session explored transmission and communication of Maghribi cultures in multiple forms. Naima Yahi discussed heritage-making and the experience of curating an exhibition in Toulouse on Maghribi diaspora, including Jews and Muslims (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwyaQrfJno4&feature=share). Through standpoint theory, we subsequently discussed the notion of museum ‘restitution’ with Miléna Kartowski-Aïach’s personal experience at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme. Jonas Sibony analysed an ethnographic video of a Judeo-Arabic piyyut (Ehad mi yodea), leading to an exploration of oral archives still in existence among North African Jewish religious populations. These presentations prompted discussion of the dissemination of heritage – personal, public, national, origin, and label – in multiple contexts: liturgical, transborder, Maghribi. In this session, we focused on Algeria and Morocco in particular, notably through exploring an Algerian Jewish museum project 1968-72 and Simon Lévy’s Casablanca ‘only Jewish Museum in the Middle East
Workshop A: Artistic Creation on the Line Between Jerusalem and Morocco
Amit Hai Cohen and Neta El Kayam took us on a creative journey of their musical and artistic practice ‘on the line from Jerusalem to Casablanca’ and on to Tahanut. The workshop began with a famous poem by Benarroch recited in Spanish (Sami Everett) and Arabic (Moneim Rahman), and then performed by Amit and Neta. Neta then explained the extent to which she and Amit have invested themselves in learning and perfecting Arabic (over a period of ten years) in order to be able to replicate the chaâbi repertoire and finally create their own music beyond the guardians of this genre: Samy Maghribi, Maurice El Medioni, Line Monty, Zohra Alfasia etc.
— “Ya lhmama” — docu music 11mins (2015), projection
— ARENAS project — influence of the transit camps “Grand Arenas” (performance)
— “Abiadi” — tribute to singer Zohra Alfasia (performance)
— “Tizgui” — video projection and personal documentation
— Presentation of the exhibition “Ziara” currently at the Jerusalem bianniale
— Performance of Moroccan music within synagogues in Jerusalem
Traditional repertoire: https://www.facebook.com/karima.direche/videos/2276152435844663/
Contemporary repertoire: https://www.facebook.com/naima.yahi/videos/10218248078887527/
Session 2: Memory, Amnesia, & Stereotype
Chaired by Rebekah Vince (Durham), the discussion in this session revolved around remembering and forgetting in musical, theatrical, and linguistic depictions of Jewish-Muslim interactions in the twentieth century, with a focus on Tunisia, Algeria, and France. Presentations were given by Morgan Corriou (Paris VIII) on Albert Samama and his forgotten documentary films; Chris Silver (McGill, Canada) on the forgotten feminism of Habiba Messika; and Hadj Miliani (CRASC, Oran, Algeria) on the importance of remembering Algerian Jewish artists and performers without leaning towards lachrymose history. Miliani stated, ‘the history of early twentieth century performance between Jews and Muslims is one of brawls, cooperation and fierce competition’. Finally, Mourad Yelles (Emeritus, INALCO) spoke about the Judeo-Arabic genre of Matrouz (local Arabic/Hebrew mirror poetry) in diasporic contexts. A long discussion about the idea and notion of the ‘intermediary’ ensued, and a productive tension emerged between the technological forward thinking of these ‘intermediaries’ (Yafil, Samama, etc.), and why Jewishness and intermediary-ness should be so often elided.
Session 3: Mixed Grammars; Talking about North Africa in France
Chaired by Sami Everett, this session looked at the ways in which North Africa and Arabs, Jews, and Muslims in France (often from or descendants of North Africa) are discussed, represented, and depicted transnationally in the contemporary era. This provided the context for a discussion around the tenor and content of an exhibition about Jewish-Muslim Maghribi cross-connections in relation to Maghribi trajectories of migration to France. The session moved chronologically from Arthur Asseraf ’s work on 1930s Algerian radio broadcasting to Naomi Davidson’s current project on post-independence Algerian Jewish-Muslim correspondence, notably around material heritage such as synagogues, cemeteries, and liturgy in the late 1960s and 1970s. More polemical discussions brought us to up-to-date concerning the current intellectual debate in the US around the use of Judeo-Arabic (Jonathan Glasser) and an in-depth analysis of the terms used to describe French Jews and Muslims in the French national written press (Le Monde, Le Figaro) (Adi Bharat). Several interesting notions were shared concerning Jewish-Muslim exchange, all of which pointed to ‘contact that drives friction’ (Arthur Asseraf). Other topics of discussion included ‘listening with suspicion’ to ‘Oriental’ music; the reconversion of places of religious worship and devotion (the case of the great mosque, formerly synagogue, of Oran); the Butnitski-Shohat debate about Judeo-Arabic and its secularist assumptions (Jonathan Glasser); and the construction o
Workshop B: Creating an Interactive Exhibition
The final workshop focussed on academic creativity, digital humanities, and the incorporation of these elements into a museum exhibition. The workshop was in two parts. First, Iris Miské introduced us to her artistic work at the intersection of plural cultures and human rights activism (feminism, gender, LGBTQ including Medieval Lesbians; migrant rights, especially of Saharoui Cubanos; and now dynamic Maghribi Jewish-Muslim artistic collaborations). She explained how she and Sami Everett have been translating archival research on the 1920s Algiers theatre and music scene into a digital format, and showed the DJMI network the storyboard that they have been working on together for a future animation. Second, Mathias Dreyfus discussed in-depth and elicited questions on his future exhibition.
Conversation emerged around storytelling through objects, and the ability to narrate conflict without taking sides, as well as future directions:
- Convergence of the project with several contemporary initiatives for the promotion of Jewish North African heritage and Muslim contact in Paris: Association Dalâla (for the promotion of North African Jewish Culture)
- Consolidate the digital humanities angle of the project after the edited volume by creating short animated films as lead-ins to several chapters
- Remaining papers to be pitched as a special issue to a leading journal (Journal of Modern Jewish Studies have expressed an interest; The Journal of North African Studies is another option)
- Third and fourth conferences are being planned i. to accompany the book launch of Everett & Vince’s volume Everett, Samuel Sami, and Rebekah Vince (eds.), Jewish-Muslim Interactions: Performing Cultures in North Africa and France (Liverpool University Press, Francophone Postcolonial Studies series, 2020) in October or November 2020 and ii. to continue the emergent synergies between art/music, digital humanities and Jewish-Muslim interactional scholarship in Morocco (March/April 2021). The first will be the opportunity to develop and discuss a project bid (ERC).
- Funding applications for the third conference: EAJS, ANR, AHRC, Hanadiv
- The final manuscript for the volume to be submitted at the end of October 2019 and reviewed before the end of the year, in preparation for 2020 publication
- Sami Everett will continue to work on the conference/project video-clips, which tie the participants to the cultural artefacts
Planned outcomes and outputs
Outcomes: As the ‘tasks ahead’ section indicates, we will be convening two further conferences with a core of continuing participants to take forwards collective plans for the use of the materials and videos already collated. Conference three will focus on the pedagogical use of the materials collated.
Outputs: The growing cultural artefacts archive, hosted at CRASSH, includes a wide range of material, from YouTube videos to song clips, from personal and ethnographic photographs to street art, and from film extracts to fieldwork notes and musical clippings from the field. It is our intention that these cultural artefacts, accompanied by video presentations recorded at the two conferences, will form the basis of a future digital output. This will consist of an online pedagogical toolkit with teaching notes and case studies, for implementation in modules that the participants currently teach in the first instance, and subsequent adaptation for secondary school level, following the model of the Yiddish Book Centre Educational Programs.
Final conference Programme
Dynamic Jewish-Muslim Interactions (“DJMI”) in Maghribi Material and Performative Cultures; 17 September 2019 – 18 December 2019
|Day One, Tuesday 17 September|
|09.30 – 10.00||Registration|
|10.00 – 10.30||Welcome and opening words|
|10.30 – 12.00||Session One: Multilingualism, Aesthetics & Translation
Chair: Karima Dirèche (Aix-Marseille)
Naima Yahi (CNRS): ‘Cultural Histories, Diasporic Tongues’
Jonas Sibony (INALCO): ‘How are Jewish-Muslim Interactions Played Out in Language?’
Miléna Kartowski-Aïach (Aix-Marseille): ‘Objects Speak to Us: Naming, Repairing and Restitution’
|12.00 – 13.00||Lunch|
|13.00 – 16.00||Workshop A: Artistic Creation on the Line Between Jerusalem and Morocco
With artists Neta El Kayam and Amit Hai Cohen
|16.00 – 16.30||Break|
|16.30 – 18.00||Session Two: Memory, Amnesia, & Stereotype
Chair: Rebekah Vince (Durham)
Morgan Corriou (Paris 8): ‘Forgotten Films and Movie Memory-Making’
Chris Silver (McGill): ‘Does Music Remember While History Forgets?’
Hadj Miliani: ‘Mirroring, Memories, and Multiplicities’
Mourad Yelles (INALCO): ‘Folklore, Tradition, and Memories of Mixing’
|Day Two, Wednesday 18 September 2019|
|09.00 – 9.30||Coffee & Pastries|
|09.30 – 11.00||Session Three: Mixed Grammars; Talking about North Africa in France
Chair: Sami Everett (Cambridge)
Naomi Davidson (University of Chicago in Paris): ‘Mediterranean Conflicts and Convergences’
Jonathan Glasser (William & Mary): ‘The Judeo-Arabic debate’
Arthur Asseraf (Cambridge): ‘Listening with suspicion’
Adi Bharat (Manchester): ‘Jews and Muslims in contemporary French Newspapers’
|11.00 – 14.00||Workshop B: Creating an Interactive Exhibition (including lunch)
With graphic designer Iris Miské and historian and museum curator and historian Mathias Dreyfus
|14.00 – 14.30||Group Discussion: Timelines and Deadlines|
|14.30||End of conference|
- Université Paris Sciences et Lettres
- European Association for Jewish Studies
Full list of attendees:
- Karima Dirèche (Aix-Marseille)
- Naima Yahi (CNRS)
- Jonas Sibony (INALCO)
- Miléna Kartowski-Aïach (Aix-Marseille)
- Amit Hai Cohen (Musician, Jerusalem)
- Neta El Kayam (Musician, Jerusalem)
- Rebekah Vince (Durham)
- Morgan Corriou (Paris 8)
- Chris Silver (McGill)
- Hadj Miliani (CRASC)
- Mourad Yelles (INALCO)
- Sami Everett (Cambridge)
- Naomi Davidson (University of Chicago in Paris)
- Jonathan Glasser (William & Mary)
- Arthur Asseraf (Cambridge)
- Adi Bharat (Manchester)
- Iris Miské (Graphic artist, Toulouse)
- Mathias Dreyfus (Curator MNHI, Paris)
- Sarah Benichou (Journalist, Paris)
- Abdelmoniem Rahma (Fellow, Camargo Foundation, CF)
- Floy Krouchi (Fellow, CF)
- Sara Farid (Fellow, CF) — thanks Camargo Foundation, 2019 © Sara Farid for all photos