CFP: Jews and Whiteness in Colonial Spaces (10-11 June 2020, SOAS, London)

Yair Wallach's picture

This workshop at the SOAS Centre for Jewish Studies, on 10-11 June 2020, will explore new thinking on race in the discussion of Jews and colonialism, primarily in Asia and Africa. The relation of Jews and whiteness has seen keen academic debate in North America, where Jews are discussed alongside other peripheral groups. The colonial contexts of Asia and Africa raise different questions, but the framework of whiteness is relatively rare to come by in studies of Jews and race in these contexts, despite ongoing debate on relations between colonialism and Jews.

This workshop will bring together scholars who work on Jews and race in colonial and post-colonial spaces to reflect on the framework of whiteness, its explanatory potential, and its limitations. How, and to what extent, can “whiteness” help us to analyze racialization of Jews under colonialism and its aftermath? How do Jews respond to, operate against or are coopted by this “whiteness”?

Our call for papers is for all scholars working on these topics, but we are primarily interested in Asian and African contexts, including but not limited to, French, Spanish and Italian ruled North Africa; Palestine/Israel; Ethiopia, South Africa, British ruled India and China.  This interdisciplinary workshop aims to bring together scholars of the humanities and social sciences, for a historically-informed discussion, and we welcome work-in-progress contributions, on topics such as:

1.     Jews as colonial settlers: their “suitability”, acculturation, encounter with native population, other settler groups, Imperial powers; “Whiteness” for Zionism, Territorialism

2.     The racialization of African Jews in colonial and post-colonial contexts

3.     The extension of European citizenship to native Jews in North African under European colonialism, and its effects

4.     The racialization of Middle Eastern Jews in circuits of migration during colonial times: e.g. Jewish-Iraqi migrants eastwards - to India, China - and westwards, to the UK

5.     The question of “whiteness” for Sephardic/Mizrahi communities in Europe and elsewhere

6.     The place of “whiteness” in antisemitism, historical and contemporary, and its relation to colonial and anti-colonial discourses

7.    How does the materiality and fluidity of place-making correlate with the operation of whiteness for Jews in such spaces

Please send abstracts of up to 300 words, including contact information and institutional affiliation, by 26th March 2020 to

Organisers will be able to cover some travel expenses for participants.

Organized by Yair Wallach, SOAS (

Update - COVID-19

It is unclear at this point if we could hold the workshop on the 10-11 of June. This would depend on the overall situation and restrictions on travel.

We will examine the situation closer to the date. We are hoping that it would be possible to hold it as planned.

It may be necessary to either delay the workshop to July, or even later. Alternatively we look at the possibility of holding the workshop online.

In the meantime the Call for Papers is till open, and you are encouraged to submit abstracts.

Best wishes, Yair

Dr Yair Wallach,
Senior Lecturer in Israeli Studies
Languages, Cultures and Linguistics,
SOAS, University of London