2013. jún. 9.

Semitic Philology within European Intellectual History

Semitic Philology within European Intellectual History:Constructions of Race, Religion and Language in Scholarly Practice

19.06.2013-21.06.2013, Berlin

Zukunftsphilologie Konferenz in Kooperation mit dem Dahlem Humanities Center

Islam Dayeh (Zukunftsphilologie/Freie Universität Berlin), Ya'ar Hever
(Zukunftsphilologie Fellow 2012-2013), Elizabeth Eva Johnston
(Zukunftsphilologie Fellow 2012-2013) und Markus Messling (Universität


Maurice Olender (EHESS, Paris), Tuska Benes (The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg), Avi Lifschitz (University College London/Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2012/2013), Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn (CNRS, Paris), Lena Salaymeh (Berkeley School of Law), Tomoko Masuzawa
(University of Michigan), Céline Trautmann-Waller (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III), Yair Adiel (Hebrew University), Tal Hever-Chybowski (Paris/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Netanel Anor (TOPOI Excellence Cluster, FU & HU Berlin) und Daniel Boyarin (UC Berkeley/Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2012/2013)


The scientific field of Semitic philology developed out of European Christian Bible studies, taking its name from the son of Noah, Shem (Sem). The term Semitic first appears in the 18th century as a designation for a family of cognate languages including Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, as well as for the peoples who spoke them. The conceptual leap from language to people, informs ways race and religion were thought and perceived over the nineteenth century. Such essentializations have played, and continue to play, a decisive role in European and world history.

This symposium is inspired by Maurice Olender's book from 1989 Les langues du Paradis (The Languages of Paradise, 1992), which describes the emergence and development of a discourse dividing humanity into
Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) and Semites. Gil Anidjar engages Olender's work in his Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (2008), interrogating the ways Jews and Arabs, once equally "Semites," became a race and a religion, respectively, as the "Aryans" disappeared from discourse.

"Semitic Philology within European Intellectual History" aims to rethink the category "Semitic" and its discursive dynamics. Questions to be explored include: What from 18th century Bible Studies is maintained and transformed in and through the field of Semitic philology? In what ways have peoples identified as "Semites" come to view themselves as Semitic, and towards what ends? How are Orientalist discourse, Semitic philology, and Antisemitism entangled? What is the contemporary relevance of the term "Semitic"?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Venue: Freie Universität Berlin, "Rostlaube", Seminarzentrum, Raum L115,
Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

18.15 Maurice Olender (EHESS, Paris) Keynote Lecture
La Fabrique des origines: philologies européennes entre sciences et religions
The Fabrication of Origins. European Philology Between Science and Religion
Welcome word: Joachim Küpper (DHC/FU Berlin)

Introduction by Markus Messling (Universität Potsdam)

Thursday, June 20, 2013
Main Venue: Forum Transregionale Studien, c/o Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin,
Villa Jaffé, Wallotstr. 10, 14193 Berlin

10.00 - 10.15 Introduction
Islam Dayeh (Zukunftsphilologie/Freie Universität Berlin)

10.15 - 11.00 Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn (CNRS, Paris)
Reflections on Institutional Categories and the Location of "Semitic" Studies

11.00 - 11:45 Avi Lifschitz
(University College London/Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2012-2013)
J. D. Michaelis among the Semites: From the Ancient Israelites to Modern Jews

11.45 - 12.00 Coffee Break

12.00 - 12.45 Tuska Benes (The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg)
Race, Religion, and the Shared Descent of Semitic and Indo-European in the Sacred Histories of Christian Bunsen (1791-1866)

12.45 - 13.30 Netanel Anor
(TOPOI Excellence Cluster, Freie Universität Berlin & Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Joseph Halévy and the Sumerian Problem: On Race, Language and Culture in 19th- Century Ancient Near East Studies

13.30 - 14.45 Lunch

14.45 - 15.30 Ya'ar Hever (Zukunftsphilologie Fellow 2012-2013)
Modern Hebrew: The Uncanny Story of the Life and Death of an Undead Language

15.30 - 16.15 Yair Adiel (Hebrew University)
On the Linguistic and Political (Im-)Possibilities of Language Classification Following Sayed Kashua's Arab Labor

Friday, June 21, 2013
10.00 - 10.45 Elizabeth Eva Johnston (Zukunftsphilologie Fellow 2012-2013)
On Distinctions and Similarities across Oriental and Semitic Studies,
and the Wissenschaft des Judentums

10.45 - 11.30 Tomoko Masuzawa (University of Michigan)
Good Semites: A Fulcrum of Comparative Religion That Never Was

11.30 - 11.45 Coffee Break

11.45 - 12.30 Céline Trautmann-Waller (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III)
Resisting against the Philological Invention of the Desert: Ignác Goldziher's Mythology among the Hebrews between the Essence of Tradition and the Invention of Nations

12.30 - 13.15 Tal Hever-Chybowski (Paris/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
The Semitic Component in Yiddish and its Ideological Role in 20th-Century Yiddish Philology

13.15 - 14.30 Lunch

14.30 - 15.15 Lena Salaymeh (Berkeley School of Law) What is a "Semitic" Legal Tradition?

15.15 - 16.00 Islam Dayeh (Zukunftsphilologie/Freie Universität Berlin)
Israel Wolfensohn, Taha Hussain and the Introduction of Semitic Philology in Cairo

16.00 - 16.15 Coffee Break

16.15 - 17.00 Daniel Boyarin (UC Berkeley/Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2012-2013)
"The Martyrs of Caesarea": New York, 1944

17:00-17:30 Concluding Discussion

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