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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! Series

Celebrating Maimonides in Cairo: Jewish Historiography, Egyptian Nationalism, and Global Crisis

Thursday 14 October 2021
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What's New?! Fall Lecture Series 2021
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

In the spring of 1935, Egyptian Jewish communal leaders and historians in Cairo organized national celebrations on the occasion of the 800th birthday of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. The celebrations were attended by prominent Egyptian scholars and literati and broadcast by national radio. This lecture focuses on these celebrations within the contexts of Egyptian Jewish historiography and Egyptian nationalism, global celebrations of Maimonides in 1935, and transnational circulation of knowledge and manuscripts. Based on archival sources, press coverage of the event, and an analysis of historical studies on Maimonides published on the occasion, I will address several points: first, the celebrations in Cairo allow us to look into Jewish perspectives on Egyptian national culture and regional debates on reform and revival (the Nahda). Second, as the celebrations essentially revolved around the legacy and belonging of Maimonides, they provide a window onto Egyptian and global debates on the intersections of Jewish, Egyptian and Islamic history and culture, and its relation to the ‘West’ during a time of global crisis. Lastly, the organizers’ international correspondences and attempts to reclaim and revive Jewish heritage shed light on the colonial context in which the Cairo celebrations ultimately took place.

About Lucia Admiraal

Lucia Admiraal is a lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Groningen. She is currently completing her PhD (University of Amsterdam). Her research lies at the intersection of modern Middle East studies and Jewish studies. Her interests include the history of the Arabic Nahda movement, the history of historiography in the Middle East, and Arabic literature.

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