Reimagining Sephardic Studies: Provocations from Outside the Fold

Jessie Stoolman's picture
December 15, 2021
United States
Subject Fields: 
Indigenous Studies, Black History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Jewish History / Studies, Ethnic History / Studies


Deadline: December 15, 2021

Reimagining Sephardic Studies: 

Provocations from Outside the Fold


Virtual Symposium

May 2022

Keynote Speaker, 1 May 2022: 

Joseph Sassoon (Georgetown University)


Nancy Ko (Columbia University)

Rachel Smith (UCLA)

Jessie Stoolman (UCLA) 

Far from a narrow focus on Ladino-speaking Jews originating from the Iberian Peninsula, scholarship in past decades have evinced numerous appraisals of the modern histories and cultures of Jews in North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and Iran, and the “Muslim world” writ large under the flexible rubric of “Sephardic Studies”. Yet Sephardic Studies, broadly construed, has yet to fully account for the political and institutional contexts within which the Anglophone and Israeli study of Jews in the Muslim world operates, and how such contexts have shaped epistemic (im)possibilities within the field.

The aim of this virtual symposium is to bring together emerging scholars and activists not only to interrogate the politics of knowledge production within Sephardic Studies today, but also to envision how the next generation of scholarship on Jews in Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) might relate to scholarly and lay audiences outside of disciplinary Sephardic Studies. Taking the field’s categorical instability as a starting point, we ask: what is the relationship between Sephardic Studies and the emergence of Mizrahi critique in Israel and the Anglophone world? How have—or haven’t—scholars and institutions invested in Sephardic or Mizrahi Studies related to Palestinian scholarship and activism, and to issues of state violence more broadly? Finally, how might recent histories and theories of racialization, capitalism, migration, and settler colonialism compel us to reframe the study of Jews in SWANA? Conversely, how might the study of Jews in SWANA transform our understanding of race, capitalism, labor, migration, and colonialism in the modern world?

Papers in direct conversation with Ethnic, Indigenous, Palestinian, Global South, Black, and Feminist scholarship and activism are highly encouraged. Papers may explore or critique the relevance of these modes of inquiry to topics within “Sephardic Studies” broadly construed, such as:

  • Racialized and gendered violence in the Sephardic world 
  • Minority politics and state violence in a global context
  • The politics of inclusion and exclusion in Sephardic and Mizrahi Studies, and Jewish and Israel Studies more broadly; the concepts of “anti-Blackness,” “anti-Semitism,” and “Islamophobia”
  • Colonialisms and settler colonialisms; Marxist, socialist, pan-Arab, and anti-colonial movements; Zionisms and anti-Zionisms
  • Migration: Sephardic, Arab and Eastern European Jewish migration networks; Ottoman migrations to Europe and the Americas, including the Mahjar
  • Political economy: Labor, capital, infrastructure, and the making of global racial hierarchy; taxation, property, merchant networks, and port cities 
  • Language, literature, and culture: multilingualism; the Nahda and its cognates; Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Persian literary production; photography, music, and soundscapes
  • The politics of the “archive”; uses and abuses of family history
  • The politics and grammar of solidarity


This list is meant to be suggestive, not prohibitive. Submissions from early-career researchers, activists, artists, and writers (including graduate students, adjuncts, and assistant professors) will be prioritized, though all relevant and rigorous submissions shall be considered.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and a speaker biography of no more than 100 words here

Deadline for submissions: 11:59 pm on December 15, 2021

The status of individual submissions will be updated by mid-January 2022.

Queries can be directed to the conference organizers at

Submissions sent over email will not be considered. Please send all submissions through the Google Form.

Contact Info: 

Jessie Stoolman

Rachel Smith 

Nancy Ko