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Conference: Jewish-Muslim Relations – Boundaries and Transgressions

March 9, 2016

Presented by The Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Global Islamic Studies – with the generous support of the Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish History 

Boundaries demarcate, separate, and serve to define difference often through the articulation of cultural diacritica that to an outside observer might seem rather trivial. Indeed, Freud referred to this as the narcissism of minor difference. Boundaries are symbolic rather than concrete. As the anthropologist Fredrick Barth argued, actors can readily cross over even while the diacritica of difference remain intact. Conversion, assimilation, and acculturation are ever-present parts of group interactions, while borrowing, appropriations, and unexpected religious, philosophical and political synergies complicate the notion of long-standing, non-porous and overly-rigid boundaries when groups are in contact over extended periods of time. Moreover, as much as the idea of boundaries helps us understand certain aspects of group interaction, equally significant are the borderlands, or frontiers, which both lend themselves to transgressions, but may also generate as a reaction the need for restorative boundary maintenance both on the part of the majority and minority.

The proposed conference will investigate these concept of boundaries and their transgression in Muslim-Jewish relations from a variety of perspectives. Organized under two panels tentatively entitled Demarcation and Maintenance and Negotiation and Transgression, it will present papers that focus on social, cultural, legal, economic, and spatial aspects of Muslim-Jewish relations. Through its inter-disciplinary approach as well as by crisscrossing time and space, this conference will play a much-needed role in advancing comparative study of this timely question.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, the Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment), the Center for European Studies, UF International Center, Office of Research, Department of Religion, Department of Political Science, Department of Anthropology, Department of History, and the Department of Languages, Literature, and Culture.



Andre Levy, Ben-Gurion University (Anthro, Maghreb)

Aomar Boum, UCLA (Anthro, Maghreb)

Marcy Brink-Danan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Anthro, Turkey)

Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago (History, Iraq)

Mark Wagner, Louisiana State University (Languages & Literature, Yemen)

Naomi Davidson, University of Ottawa (History, Maghreb, France)

Murat Yildiz, University of Michigan (History, Turkey)

Michelle Campos, University of Florida (History)



March 9

8:30-9:00                     Coffee/Tea

9:00-9:10                     Opening Remarks (thank our sponsors)

Panel 1: Muslims and Jews between Others and Brothers

9:10-9:50                     “Semite Brothers: Discussions of Race and Religion between Jews and Muslims in the Nahda,” Orit Bashkin,

   University of Chicago – with Q&A

9:50-10:25                   “Rethinking Muslim and Jewish Spaces and Places in the Modern Middle East,” Michelle Campos, University of

   Florida – with Q&A

10:25-10:40                 Coffee/Tea Break

Panel 2: Customs, Rituals, and Communal Boundaries

10:40-11:20                 “‘Superficial Observers’: Marking Distance and Difference in Late 19th Century Algeria,” Naomi Davidson,

   University of Ottawa – with Q&A

11:20-12:00                 “Ritual or a Game? Zionist Perspectives on the Mimouna,” Andre Levy, Ben Gurion University of the Negev –

   with Q&A

12:00-1:30                   Lunch

Panel 3: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Transgression

1:30-2:10                     “Producing and Performing Communal Bonds and Boundaries in Late Ottoman Istanbul: Sports Clubs,

   Competitions, and Exhibitions,” Murat C. Yıldız, University of Michigan – with Q&A

2:10-2:50                     “Sexual Liaisons between Muslims and Jews in 20th Century Yemen,” Mark Wagner, Louisiana State University

   – with Q&A


2:50-3:10                     Coffee/Tea Break

Panel 4: Multiculturalism, ‘Normalization’ and the Body Politic

3:10-3:50                     “Israel in Morocco: Berber and Arab Discourses of Political Normalization,” Aomar Boum, University of California, Los Angeles – with Q&A

3:50-4:30                     “Shifting Signs: The Semiotics of Jewish-Muslim Relations in the Turkish Republic,” Marcy Brink Danan, The

   Hebrew University of Jerusalem – with Q&A

4:30-4:45                     Coffee/Tea Break

4:45-5:30                     Concluding Discussion


March 9, 2016


Judaica Suite, Smathers Library
Gainesville, FL 32611 United States + Google Map