History, Diaspora, and Politics

Episode 332

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Migration has long been a driving force in the history of global and transnational connections. In this episode, we explore the politics of diaspora surrounding different migrant communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond with three student guests. First, we discuss the little-known history of Vietnamese migrants in the state of Israel. Then, through film, we revisit the history and memory of Jewish urban life in North Africa between Tunisia and France. Finally, we consider the political implications of the relationship between Canada and the Ismaili diaspora.

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Contributor Bios

Evyn Lê Espiritu is a Rhetoric PhD candidate and filmmaker at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation examines the Vietnamese refugee diaspora in Guam and Israel-Palestine as a means to trace not only circuits of empire—how the Vietnam War is linked to US military build-up in Guam and an unwavering support of Israel—but also circuits of solidarity—how Chamorro decolonialization efforts and Palestinian resistance struggles are connected via the Vietnamese refugee figure.
Margaux Fitoussi is a PhD student in anthropology at Columbia University studying migration and memory in North Africa.
Kais Khimji recently graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College where he majored in Social Studies with a focus on Islamic Modernism and Western Thought. His thesis explored the relationship between the Canadian government and the Ismaili Imamat as represented by His Highness the Aga Khan IV.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, and more specifically on the history of women's health.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.

Individual Conversations


Episode No. 332
Release Date: 10 September 2017
Recording Location: Harvard University
Audio editing by Shireen Hamza and Chris Gratien
Music: Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi; Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla; Baglamamin Dugumu - Necmiye Ararat and Muzaffer; from Excavated Shellac - Lili Labassi - Mazal Haye Mazal
Special thanks to Kara Günes for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Images and bibliography courtesy of Evyn Lê Espiritu, Margaux Fitoussi, and Kais Khimji


This synagogue was demolished in 1961. The Hebraic inscription above the doors says in Hebrew: Beith Haknesset Haguedola, which translates as the Great Synagogue. Below this is engraved: Dirshou hashem veouzo bishou panav tamid, which translates as “Seek recourse with the eternal and to his support, seek his face continually.” In the background we see the Sidi Mahrez Mosque, which was constructed during the Ottoman Empire (not the tenth century). The legend says that at the end of the tenth century, Sidi Mahrez ben Khalif stood in the tower of the mosque and all areas within throwing distance were set aside for Jews. So, the story goes, his staff landed within the north-east of the medina and this zone came to be known as the Jewish quarter. Photograph: Angel Lumbroso (1960). From Bernard Allali Collection 
Exiting the synagogue, these young boys celebrate their bar mitvah and are accompanied home by children singing liturgical songs known as ouled el bayout. Photographer unknown
A father and his son in front of the Ben Turka door on Sidi Mfarej Street. Tunisian Jewish men wore the black band around their legs as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. Some form of this symbol of mourning can be found in Jewish communities all over the world and some older Jews in Djerba continue to wear this style of clothing. Photographer unknown (1890). From Bernard Allali Collection 
Select Bibliography

Vietnamese Refugees in the State of Israel

“66 Vietnam Refugees Find Asylum in Israel.” The Victoria Advocate 26 June 1977: 2A. Print.
Asia and Oceania Department. “Telegram 4976.” Trans. Kobi Fischer. 19 Sept. 1979.

Boyarin, Daniel.  A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

Bryen, Shoshana. “Israel and the Boat People.” Times of Israel 6 Jan. 2012. Web.

Butler, Judith. Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

Byrd, Jodi A. The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Carter, Jimmy, and Menachem Begin. “Visit of Prime Minister Menahem Begin of Israel Remarks of the President and the Prime Minister at the Welcoming Ceremony.” White House Lawn. 1977.

Chamberlin, Paul Thomas. The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Day, Iyko. Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

Dror, Duki. The Journey of Vaan Nguyen. Zygote Films, 2005. DVD.

Espiritu, Yen Lê. Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

Feldman, Keith P. A Shadow Over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Hirsch, Marianne. “Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile.” Poetics Today (1996): 659–686. Print.

Jacobs, Adriana X. “Where You Are From: The Poetry of Vaan Nguyen.” Shofar 33.4 (2015): 83–110. Print.

Lê Espiritu, Evyn. "Cold War Entanglements, Third World Solidarity: Vietnam and Palestine, 1967-1975."  Canadian Review of American Studies.  Forthcoming in 2018.

Lê Espiritu, Evyn. "Vexed Solidarities: Vietnamese Israelis and the Question of Palestine."  Literature, Interpretation, Theory.  Forthcoming in 2018.

Lubin, Alex. Geographies of Liberation: The Making of an Afro-Arab Political Imaginary. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Maira, Sunaina, and Magid Shihade. “Meeting Asian/Arab Studies: Thinking Race, Empire, and Zionism in the U.S.” Journal of Asian American Studies 9.2 (2006): 117–140. Print.

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Pegues, Juliana Hu. “Empire, Race, and Settler Colonialism: BDS and Contingent Solidarities.” Theory & Event 19.4 (2016): n. pag. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

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Raviv and Weissberger. “Telegram 4989.” Trans. Kobi Fischer. 14 Sept. 1979: n. pag. Print.

Said, Edward W. “Reflections on Exile.” Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. 137–149.

Trinh T. Minh-ha. Forgetting Vietnam. Women Make Movies, 2015. Digital.

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Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8.4 (2006): 387–409.

El Hara

Abdelkafi, Jellal. La Médina de Tunis: Espace historique. (Paris: CNRW, 1989).

Barbé, Phillippe, “Jewish-Muslim Syncretism and Intercommunity Cohabitation in the Writings of Albert Memmi,” Allan MacVictar, trans. in Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa, ed. Emily Benichou Gottreich and Daniel J. Schroeter (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), pp. 107-127.

Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the Colonized. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).

Memmi, Albert. The Pillar of Salt. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

Parks, Richard. Medical Imperialism in French North Africa: Regenerating the Jewish Community of Colonial Tunis. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

Parks, Richard. “The Jewish Quarters of Interwar Paris and Tunis: Destruction, Creation, and French Urban Design,” Journal of Jewish Social Studies 17, no. 1 (2010): 67-87.

Sebag, Paul. La Hara de Tunis: L’évolution d’un ghetto (Paris: P.U.F., 1959).


Jacob Perry said…
Loved this episode. I was hoping for a link to "El hara" but do not see one. Is there one available? I would love to watch this short film.
Unknown said…
Is there any online copy of the film, "El Hara" ?

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