Orit Bashkin

Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Chicago

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
May – July 2019

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»A New Jew in an Arab Public Sphere – The Dreyfus Affair, global Anti-Semitism, and the Birth of the Arab intellectual«

Project outline:
During this summer, I will work on my book project, The Arab Jewish Metaphor – Ethnicity and Freedom in Modern Arab Thought. My new book project examines the representations of Jews in the Arab print media during the years 1876–1929, focusing in particular on the coverage of the Dreyfus affair in the Arab Press. It argues that the writing about Jews, such as Dreyfus, reflects not only an interest in Jewish history and culture, but also, and more importantly, discourses about the meaning of being an Arab in a modern and globalized world. The discourse about Judaism, then, was not necessarily as much about Jews as it was about questions pertaining to identity, religious reform, race, ethnicity and citizenship in the Arab world. The representations of Jews by Arab Christians and Muslims, moreover, were not modeled on realities created after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, but rather responded to new realities created during the modern age, in particular the rise of anti-Semitism in the modern world and its link to colonialism and imperialism. To understand how the Jew was talked about, then, is to understand the development of Arab national discourses, the various conversations about Arab ethnicity and more broadly, cultural discourses current in the Arab world of the time. (Orit Bashkin)

Research partner:
Orit Bashkin follows an invitation of Christian Wiese (Professor of Jewish Philosophy of Religion at Goethe University) and the University's research center »Religiöse Positionierung. Modalitäten und Konstellationen in jüdischen, christlichen und islamischen Kontexten« (»Religious Positioning: Modalities and Constellations in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Contexts«).

Scholarly profile of Orit Bashkin

Orit Bashkin is professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from Princeton University in 2004, writing a thesis on Iraqi intellectual history. Her publications deal with Iraqi history, the history of Iraqi Jews, the Arab cultural revival movement (the nahda) in the late 19th century, and the connections between modern Arab history and Arabic literature. She is the author of a trilogy of books exploring Iraqi cultural history and the roles of Jews in them: The Other Iraq, Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq, New Babylonians: A History of Jews in Modern Iraq, and Impossible Exodus: Iraqi Jews in Israel.

Further information about Orit Bashkin can be found here.

Main areas of research:
Iraqi History and Culture, Arab-Jewish History, Arab Intellectual History, History and Literature, Israeli history

Selected publications:
  1. »Arabic Thought in the Radical Age: Emile Habibi, the Israeli Communist Party and the Production of Arab Jewish Radicalism, 1946–1961«, in: Arabic Thought against the Authoritarian Age, Towards an Intellectual History of the Present, Ed.: Max Weiss and Jens Hanssen, Cambridge University Press 2018.
  2. »Three Syrian intellectuals, a French Jewish Officer, and the Question of Late Ottoman Pluralism«, in: International Journal of Middle East Studies, 50/4 (2018), p. 765-768.
  3. An Impossible Exodus – Iraqi Jews in Israel, Stanford University Press 2017.
  4. »Unholy Pilgrims in a New Diaspora: Iraqi Jewish Protest in Israel, 1950–1955«, in: The Middle East Journal, 70/4 (Fall 2016), p. 609-622.
  5. (Ed. with Margrit Pernau, Helge Jordheim, Christian Bailey et al.) Civilizing Emotions – Concepts in Nineteenth Century Asia and Europe, Oxford University Press 2015.