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The Jews in Modern Egypt. Schools, Family, and the Making of an Imagined Bourgeoisie 1880s-1950s

Dates:
  • Mon 09 Jul 2012 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2012-07-09 15:00 2012-07-09 17:00 Europe/Paris The Jews in Modern Egypt. Schools, Family, and the Making of an Imagined Bourgeoisie 1880s-1950s

My dissertation is a cultural and family history of Egyptian Jews in the period that goes from the 1880s up to the 1950s. More precisely, it focuses on the emergence of a bourgeois imaginary among the Jews of Cairo and Alexandria, showing to what extent being bourgeois consisted less on objective standards of wealth than on a systematic adherence to patterns of behaviour and presentations of self.
In order to demonstrate this, in the first chapter, I look at the activities of a French Jewish association, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and its educational and philanthropic activities among Egyptian Jews from the 1880s up to the 1930s. I then move to the investigation of the Jews’ social imaginary, starting from debates on urban solidarity and cosmopolitanism in 1881 Alexandria and then analysing diaries and essays by Jewish students of the Mission Laïque Française in interwar Cairo. Stemming from the idea of Egyptian Jewry as living in a moral laboratory, the third chapter concentrates on how different actors – from rabbis to communal leaders – discussed issues connected to religion, family and gender. Through an analysis of Egyptian Jewish and Israeli newspapers and autobiographies, in the last chapter I instead reconsider the roles that Zionism and the Land of Israel had in the history of Egyptian Jews, and to what extent they impacted on – and were reframed by – this imagined bourgeoisie from World War One to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the 1952 Nasser’s Revolution.
All in all, the dissertation shows how binary oppositions such as tradition/modernity, Jews/non-Jews, local/foreign are not appropriate to fully understand the Egyptian Jewish past. It argues that a porous and in-between approach seems much more pertinent for historicizing the Jews, and reconsider the socio-cultural role that they had in modern Egypt and in the Mediterranean at large. In so doing, it integrates them into a narrative that reconceptualises the notions of centre and periphery, attesting to the existence of histories that traversed the Mediterranean and moved from Europe to the Middle East, and vice versa.

Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

My dissertation is a cultural and family history of Egyptian Jews in the period that goes from the 1880s up to the 1950s. More precisely, it focuses on the emergence of a bourgeois imaginary among the Jews of Cairo and Alexandria, showing to what extent being bourgeois consisted less on objective standards of wealth than on a systematic adherence to patterns of behaviour and presentations of self.
In order to demonstrate this, in the first chapter, I look at the activities of a French Jewish association, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and its educational and philanthropic activities among Egyptian Jews from the 1880s up to the 1930s. I then move to the investigation of the Jews’ social imaginary, starting from debates on urban solidarity and cosmopolitanism in 1881 Alexandria and then analysing diaries and essays by Jewish students of the Mission Laïque Française in interwar Cairo. Stemming from the idea of Egyptian Jewry as living in a moral laboratory, the third chapter concentrates on how different actors – from rabbis to communal leaders – discussed issues connected to religion, family and gender. Through an analysis of Egyptian Jewish and Israeli newspapers and autobiographies, in the last chapter I instead reconsider the roles that Zionism and the Land of Israel had in the history of Egyptian Jews, and to what extent they impacted on – and were reframed by – this imagined bourgeoisie from World War One to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the 1952 Nasser’s Revolution.
All in all, the dissertation shows how binary oppositions such as tradition/modernity, Jews/non-Jews, local/foreign are not appropriate to fully understand the Egyptian Jewish past. It argues that a porous and in-between approach seems much more pertinent for historicizing the Jews, and reconsider the socio-cultural role that they had in modern Egypt and in the Mediterranean at large. In so doing, it integrates them into a narrative that reconceptualises the notions of centre and periphery, attesting to the existence of histories that traversed the Mediterranean and moved from Europe to the Middle East, and vice versa.


Location:
Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Supervisor:
Prof. Giulia Calvi (Università di Siena)

Examiner:
Prof. Anthony Molho
Prof. Emanuela Trevisani Semi (Università Cà Foscari, Venezia)
Professor Deborah Starr (Cornell University)

Contact:
Kathy Wolf Fabiani - Send a mail

Defendant:
Dario Miccoli (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
 

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