25th Annual Sabbagh Lecture
Dr. Orit Bashkin, Ph.D., Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago
Professor Orit Bashkin earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University and her B.A. and M.A. from Tel Aviv University. Her fields of expertise include Iraqi history and culture, Arab-Jewish history, Arab intellectual history, and Israeli history. She is a board member for the International Journal of Middle East Studies.
Professor Bashkin is the author of The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq; New Babylonians: A History of Jews in Modern Iraq; and Sculpturing Culture in Egypt: Cultural Planning, National Identity and Social Change in Egypt, 1890-1939. Her publications also include 25 book chapters and articles on Iraqi history, the history of Iraqi Jews, the Arab cultural revival movement (the nahda) in the late 19th century, and the connections between modern Arab history and Arabic literature.
Children are often neglected subjects of history. In Iraq, Iraqi Jewish children who belonged to the middle and upper classes identified with the majority language, Arabic, and participated in secularized rituals through the educational system. They also resisted their marginalization, with radical youth joining illegal movements such as Communism and Zionism. What protected these children from the discriminatory policies of the state were their living conditions: coexistence in mixed neighborhoods, sympathetic teachers, and fellow Muslim students whom Jews befriended.
When their community was displaced in the years 1949-1951, these children found themselves in Israel, dealing with poverty and neglect. As they grew older, their memories of Baghdad faded; they learned Hebrew, and the state was willing to invest in their primary education. On the other hand, children were the most vulnerable group amongst the newcomers: they suffered from malnutrition, and they often had to leave school to work to support their families. And yet, Iraqi Jewish children were creative. They learned how to adjust to the new conditions, and found ways to challenge and resist the state. By telling the history of these children, Professor Bashkin hopes to encourage new ways to conceptualize resistance and memory among different age groups.
FREE and open to the public
Reception following the lecture