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The Memory of North African Jews in the Diaspora

Keywords: Jews , Arab countries , Mediterranean , Israel , oral history , North Africa , Diaspora , Sephardic Jews

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Abstract:

In the following contribution, I will approach in three steps the construction of memory by North-African Jews in the Diaspora. I will first trace the history and historiography of Jews in Arab countries and point out their characteristics. This will lead me to look more precisely at the concept of “Sephardic Jews,” its meaning and application as a key-notion in the memory building for Jews from Arab countries in the Diaspora nowadays. As literature and filmmaking hold a crucial role in the perception and transmission of memory, I will then present the works of two Jewish women artists, one living in France and the other living in Quebec, both with North African origins. I will try to show how they use the past for identity (de-)construction and compare their approaches. I choose the two examples because they illustrate two extremely opposed positions concerning the role of cultural identity. Standing in the intersection of history and literary studies, my interdisciplinary work considers literary and film as memory archives and subjective representations of the past not as historical sources. In referring to Jews in Arab countries this means in my article more precisely to look at the North-African Jews.

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