Zukunftsphilologie Conference
Mi 19 Jun 2013 – Fr 21 Jun 2013

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

Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin), Ya'ar Hever and Elizabeth Johnston (both Zukunftsphilologie Fellows 2012-2013), Markus Messling (Universität Potsdam)

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Villa Jaffé, Wallotstr. 10, 14193 Berlin

Zukunftsphilologie conference in cooperation with the Dahlem Humanities Center

The contributions presented at this conference dedicated to examining the constructions, contestations, genealogies and workings of discourses about Semites, Semitic languages, religions and literatures in European scholarship were assembled in a special issue of Philological Encounters titled Formations of the Semitic: Race, Religion and Language in Modern European Scholarship, edited by Islam Dayeh, Ya’ar Hever, Elizabeth Eva Johnston and Markus Messling.

Full conference description including program, abstracts and biographies is available for download here: conference program (PDF)

June 19, 2013, 6.15 pm
Keynote Lecture
Maurice Olender (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris)
La Fabrique des origines: philologies européennes entre science an religions
The Fabrication of Origins: European Philologies Between Science and Religion
Ort: Freie Universität Berlin, Seminarzentrum, Room L 115, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

June 20 -21, 2013
Conference at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin

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

Maurice Olender (EHESS, Paris), Tuška Beneš (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) and 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”? 

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