14 December 2009

Los Angeles: Sephardic programs, AJS conference, Dec. 20

The Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) conference is in Los Angeles this year.

On December 20, from 2-4pm, the following panel is part of an AJS panel on "(Re)articulating the Sephardic Americas." The conference is at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. For more on the conference, click here.

According to the abstract, the experiences of Sephardic Jews in the Americas have been viewed as peripheral to modern European Jewry. Thus, this panel offers fresh perspectives.

Latest scholarship in the growing field of Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies has focused on exploring the multiplicity of Sephardi identities: "sépharadité" or"Sephardicity" articulated in varied ways across geography and time. However, according to experts, shows the lack of attention paid to the Sephardim in the Americas.

The panel tries to correct this - through historical and anthropological perspectives - by focusing on Colombia, New York, Argentina and Mexico City over the past century.

Sessions include:

-- The Sephardic Presence in the 19th/20th Century Colombian Caribbean: Paula Daccarett (Independent). Highlighting the interplay between expressions of Sephardi, Jewish,Colombian and Caribbean identities in fin-de-siècle Barranquilla, she explores the lives of writer Abraham López-Penha and businessman Ernesto Cortissoz.

-- Making Jews 'Sephardic' in Early Twentieth Century New York: Devin Naar (Stanford University). Arguing that Jews who arrived in New York from the eastern Mediterranean in the early 20th century did not automatically identify as Sephardi, he investigates a campaign in the Ladino press that sought to make its constituents understand themselves as such in order to achieve rapprochement with Ashkenazim within the framework of Zionism.

-- Reconfiguring identities: Zionism and SEFARADISMO in Argentina, post 1948: Adriana Brodsky (St. Mary's College of Maryland). She analyzes how Moroccan, Ottoman, and Syrian Jews formulated a shared Sephardi identity to challenge Ashkenazi hegemony within Argentina's Zionist movement, 1920s-1960s.

-- ÁRABES vs. ÁRABES LIGHT: Ethnonyms and Sephardi/Mizrahi distinction in Mexico City: Evelyn Dean (Indiana University). She explores the ways in which Jews in Mexico City deploy such terms as
shami (Damascene), halabi (Aleppan), turco (Sephardi) and idish (Ashkenazi) to construct and negotiate notions of Sephardi/Mizrahi Jewishness in the 21st century.

Organizers say that "Sephardicity" has never been a given, essential quality, but has been redefined by each generation.

For the complete listing of Sephardi/Mizrahi sessions at this year's AJS, click here

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