Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Palestine/Israel: The Vocabulary of the Conflict and its Circulation
The purpose of this seminar is to create a conversation between Palestinian and Israeli cultures, which raises the question of the possibilities and impossibilities of the operation of comparison as a methodology. To what extent can we generate and discuss a shared set of metaphors and images that circulate within each culture and between the two and what might we learn through such an endeavor. We invite scholars of cultural production generated in the orbit of the conflict writ large, to reflect on common themes (such as exile, return, diaspora, memory, at-home-ness) as they intersect but also as they rise in separate, disparate, and even disconnected circumstances. By bringing together comparative and non-comparative research done in theater, visual arts, literature, history, music, and cinema we hope to crystalize the specific conditions in which images, terminologies and styles transfer from one culture to another. The questions we ask concern both the common grounds and the particularities of post-48 Israeli and Palestinian cultures: What are the spaces that allow interaction versus those that are disconnected (for example, the city of Haifa versus the Palestinian diaspora in the Arab world)? What is unique to each of these spaces in how it constructs cultural communication? Which ideas, forms, and imagery transgress geographical limitations and reach the other side of the conflict regardless to location? What are the key terms and metaphors that are common to both cultures in narrating their history and experience and in what ways are these terms represented differently (for example, exile)? How can we analyze and account for the commonalities found in places that do not invite knowing, understanding and accessing the cultural objects of the ‘enemy’? How can the rhetoric and the methodology of comparison account for the unequal power relations folded into - and sometimes obscured by - the term ‘conflict’?
We are interested on the one hand in circulation and translation between Hebrew and Arabic, and on the other hand in the cultural spheres in which the two develop a similar vocabulary despite the lack of exchange.