If i forget thee, o baghdad: The demise of arab-jewish identity and culture

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This article examines the emergence of the modern Arabic literary writing of the Jews of Iraq and, after only a few decades, the start of its demise, in both Iraq and outside it, and then the switch to writing in Hebrew in Israel. The high point of such writing in Arabic was during the 1920s when Iraqi-Jews started to produce literary works that “were Arabic in essence and expression.” It was a secular literature, inspired by a cultural vision whose most eloquent dictum was “religion is for God, the fatherland is for everyone.” However, during recent decades the Arabic literature that 20th-century Iraqi-Jews have produced has been totally relegated to the margins of Arabic culture. This development was due not only to political and national circumstances but also to the aesthetic and cultural norms of both Arabic-Muslim and Hebrew-Jewish cultural systems. The vision embedded in the aforementioned dictum was the product of a very limited period, a very confined space, and a very singular history. It lived to the age of a sturdy human being, by this rare combination of time, space and history, before disappearing and being forgotten, at least for the foreseeable future.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)173-188
Number of pages16
JournalAsian and African studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Arab-Jewish culture
  • Arabic literature
  • Babylon
  • Baghdad
  • Hebrew literature
  • Zionism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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