April 14, 2011, 1:30pm
The Invention of a Colonial Anachronism: Jews and the Algerian Sahara
Presenter: Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Professor and Maurice Amado Chair of Sephardic Studies, Dept. of History UCLA
Location: College Hall 209

The 1870 naturalization of Algerian Jewry as French citizens stands as a crucial event in the historical and conceptual arc of modern North African and Middle Eastern Jewish history. However, in the Algerian Sahara, there existed a population of Jews to whom citizenship was not extended by the French military administration. Through eighty years of colonial rule, Jews in the M'zab lived under "Mosaic Personal Status," existing in a legal limbo that differentiated them both from their co-religionists in the North and their non-Jewish neighbors. This talk will explore how colonial law transformed Mozabite Jewry into an anachronism, and considers how, during the Algerian War and in the process of decolonization, the unlikely history of this community came to haunt French bureaucrats, international Jewish philanthropies, and M'zabi Jews themselves. Arguing that scholars of modern Jewry have neglected the history of decolonization, Stein presents a micro-history that rethinks fundamental typologies of the modern North African, Middle Eastern, European, and Jewish worlds.

Sarah Stein is a professor of History at UCLA, specializing in Sephardic Studies. Her scholarship has ranged across the Yiddish and Ladino speaking diasporas and the European, Russian, American, Ottoman and wider Mediterranean settings, but is always engaged with the reasons for and manifestations of Jewish cultural diversity in the modern period. Current wroks-in-progress include Mediterranean Fever: Classifying Jews in a Century of Decolonization and An Ottoman Rebel: Sa’adi Besalel ha-Levi and Jewish Salonica in the Nineteenth Century.

The Department of History, The Middle East Center and the Jewish Studies Program