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Amos Oz
Renowned Israeli writer and peace activist Amos Oz delivers the Herman Wouk Visiting Lecture
Mandeville auditorium, April 22, 2013
Photo by Dirk Sutro, DAH

Upcoming Events

The James K. Binder Lecture - Mercedes Garcia-Arenal

Mercedes Garcia-Arenal: Is Arabic a Spanish Language? The Uses of Arabic in Early Modern Spain

The James K. Binder Lecture
The Atkinson Pavilion at the Faculty Club, UC San Diego
Thursday, April 16, 2015

Starting in the 16th century, a new interest in Oriental languages arose in Europe, and in particular an interest in Arabic. This interest in Arabic stemmed from the textual study of the Bible which so absorbed European scholars in the age of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. This is, then, an early "Orientalism" that has little to do with colonial enterprises, and follows different paths than those outlined by Edward Said in his famous book Orientalism.

It has traditionally been argued that Spain played no part in forming this Orientalist knowledge. In fact, from its European contemporaries of the 16th century down to the historiography of the 20th century, Spain was essentially held to be an Oriental country itself, and therefore more of an object of "Orientalism" than an actual producer of Orientalist learning. This paper focuses on these two assumptions by examining the situation of the study of Arabic in Spain, and showing how in Spain Arabic scholars were immersed in a very specific context and in an ideological debate in which the role of the Arabic language was a crucial one. Throughout the 16th century there were significant populations of Arabic speakers living in Spanish territory. Spain's relationship with these minorities, known as Moriscos or converted Muslims, was highly conflictive, and eventually lead to an identification of Arabic with Islam. The central aim of this paper is to examine the complexity of the relationship between early modern Spain and the Arabic language, including the language's ambiguous standing, the need to de-Islamize it, and the different purposes for which it was employed. In particular, this talk will highlight the tension between impure origins (those of the converts from Judaism and Islam) versus sacred origins, and the efforts that were made to write an account of the sacred origins of Spain that would allow Jews and Muslims to be incorporated into the nation’s past.

Prof. Mercedes García-Arenal: Research professor  at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, CSIC, Madrid. (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spanish Council for Scientific Research).

She is a cultural historian of the Early Modern Muslim West (Islam in the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb), she has published extensively on religious minorities: mudejars and moriscos in Christian Spain, and Jews in Islamic lands, and dedicated much attention to processes of conversion, of messianism and millenarianism, to the study of saints and mysticism. She focuses on interreligious relations, cultural transmission, forced conversion and its consequences both for minorities and for mainstream society in Iberia.

Her best known book is the one written with Gerard Wiegers, A Man of Three Worlds. Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew between Catholic and Protestant Europe, first published in Spanish (Johns Hopkins University Press in 2003), and also translated into Arabic, Italian and Dutch.

The James K. Binder Lectureship in Literature is made possible by Mr. Binder’s generous bequest and honors his wishes that we bring leading European intellectuals to UC San Diego to provide a forum for rigorous discussions of literary topics.

Flyer (PDF)

The James K. Binder Lecture - Dagmawi Yimer

Dagmawi Yimer: Names and Bodies: tales from the other side of the sea
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Atkinson Pavilion at the Faculty Club, UC San Diego

In July 2006, after a long journey across Sudan and Libya, I crossed the Mediterranean Sea on a shaky migrant boat and landed at Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost frontier facing the African coast. My talk is a personal recounting of the gruesome conditions endured by migrants as they journey across desert and sea, and what they have to endure in order to reach that other shore of an unattainable land of freedom.  I intend to open with a question ‘’Are we making history or are we simply running to an already scheduled appointment?’’ and I will stress the relevance of a colonial past in marking the destiny of present immigrants from the Horn of Africa to Libya and Italy.  The account is an evocative travel narrative that recalls the memory of countless black Africans piled together and forced to undergo untenable conditions of violence that define the forms of what is essentially a twenty-first-century slave trade. The journey came back to me with unbearable strength while filming Asmat (Tigrigna for Names) to honour the names of 368 men, women and children (360 of whom from Eritrea) who lost their lives as they tried to call ashore for help during a fire as their boat neared the island of Lampedusa.  I will end with a screening of the commemorative film.

DAGMAWI YIMER born and grew up in Addis Ababa. A second year law student when left his country, after the 2005 post-election unrest in which hundreds of young people were killed and put in jail. After a long journey across the Libyan desert and the Mediterranean, he came ashore on the island of Lampedusa on 30 July 2006. In Rome, after having participated in a video-making workshop in 2007, he co-authored the film Il deserto e il mare (The desert and the sea) along with 5 other migrants. Subsequently he was co-director with Andrea Segre and Riccardo Biadene for the 2008 pluri awarded documentary film Come un uomo sulla terra (Like a man on earth). He shot the documentary C.A.R.A. ITALIA (Dear Italy) in 2009 and Soltanto il mare (Nothing but the sea) in 2011, along with several other short films. In 2011 he coordinated the collective film project Benvenuti in Italia (Welcome to Italy), and directed one of the five episodes. Va’ pensiero walking stories 2013 an interwoven account of two racist attacks in Milan and Florence. Asmat- Names  2015 short film in memory of al victims of the sea.

The James K. Binder Lectureship in Literature is made possible by Mr. Binder’s generous bequest and honors his wishes that we bring leading European intellectuals to UC San Diego to provide a forum for rigorous discussions of literary topics.

Flyer (PDF)

The Robert C. Elliott Memorial Lecture - Lisa Lowe: A Fetishism of Colonial Commodities

The Robert C. Elliott Memorial Lecture Series presents

Lisa Lowe: A Fetishism of Colonial Commodities  
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Literature Building Room 155 (de Certeau)

In this lecture, Lowe examines the relationships between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth- centuries, exploring the links between settler colonialism, slavery, imperial trades, and Western liberalism. Reading across archives, canons, and continents, she connects the liberal narrative of freedom overcoming slavery to the expansion of Anglo-American empire, observing that abstract promises of freedom often obscure their embeddedness within colonial conditions. Race and social difference, Lowe contends, are enduring remainders of colonial processes through which “the human” is universalized and “freed” by liberal forms, while the peoples who created the conditions of possibility for that freedom are assimilated or forgotten.  

Lisa Lowe is Professor of English and American Studies at Tufts University, and a member of the consortium of studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. Prior to joining Tufts in 2012, she taught in the UC San Diego Literature Department for more than two decades. She began as a scholar of comparative literature, and her work has focused on literatures and cultures of encounter that emerge from histories of colonialism, immigration, and globalization; she is known especially for her work on French and British colonialisms, race and immigration, Asian American studies, and comparative global humanities. Lowe studied European intellectual History at Stanford, and French literature and critical theory at UC Santa Cruz; she is the author of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Cornell UP, 1991), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Duke UP, 1996), and The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke UP, 2015), and coeditor of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke UP, 1997). 

The Elliott Memorial Lecture is presented annually by the UCSD Department of Literature, with the support of the Robert C. Elliott Memorial Fund, which was established at the time of Professor Elliott's death in April 1981. A founding member of the Department of Literature, Robert Elliott authored The Power of Satire (1968), The Shape of Utopia (1970), and The Literary Persona (1982).

Flyer (pdf)