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11/17/2011

Comments

Glen Gordon

Um... Did I detect anti-Jewish prejudice in this story? I think an added social commentary would be beneficial here about what's going on behind it. It gives me the uneasy impression of a storyteller that sees Jews as "demons" and the judge as the divine instrument of Allah. Ethnologically fascinating, humanistically disturbing.

PhoeniX

I'm not really sure what to make of it Glen.

This story could have happened just as well with any other character. But they've specifically chosen for a Jew.

Were I to indulge in a common prejudice towards Jews, I'd say they chose a Jew as a character because he's supposed to have a lot of money (999 Pounds should be an absurd amount around 1960).

But I have no idea if such prejudices were in place in the 1960 in Libya.

I think the actual story here is just a Sly main character who cons his way into getting away with theft + getting rewarded for it too. That's not much different from the European Reynard the Fox.

I should've maybe translated Qadi simply as 'judge' here, Qadi is such a religiously heavy word, which seems to bring forth the Jew vs Islam pattern, which I don't think is present at all.

I wish I could add social commentary, but I'm really in no position to say anything about Judaism in Libya around 1960.

Judaism has been part of North-Africa for a very long time, and Jews and Muslims have coexisted quite peacefully as far as I know.

If you want to read any Anti-semitism in this story, maybe we can recall that Libya was a colony of Italy shortly before that, maybe some of Mussolini's twisted world-view rubbed off on Libyan society?

Some information on that is to be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Libya#Italian_colonization_and_World_War_II

But, I'd feel much more comfortable if someone with more knowledge of Libyan society could say something about this.

kato

No, I don't think there is any anti-Jewish prejudice to be detected in this story, and a jews 'demon's vs muslim judge 'good' is reading way too much into it. This story isn't about Jews, it's about a wily character (which, by the way, has been a theme in Arabic folklore and epics since they're first attested) who gets the better of someone who was trying to get the better of him first.

Back when there were Jews in Libya, they would have had their own judges, and a Muslim would presumably have gone to a qadi. But here I don't think it's being portrayed as that, because Awjili probably didn't distinguish between Jewish and Muslim judges as there historically weren't Jews in Awjila (at least not in recent times in Libya).

Jews lived in east and west Libya, in cities as well as very small rural villages, up until about the 1940s, when they started leaving. You can read all about that in other sources. I'm not sure that the Jewish exodus from Libya would have affected Awjila all that much. Perhaps at one point Jewish merchants traded with the oasis, perhaps the Jew in the story is a character typical of folklore in that area.

Lameen

žunaih: yeah, it's a loan from English guinea via Egyptian Arabic.

aringí: no, the Tuareg cognate is anarag, so this really is i. It's short because it's followed by a consonant cluster.

wə́la: cp. Siwi ula "no" (and discussion of its origins in my thesis...)

i-kú 'to you': all Berber languages, as far as I know, use the full forms of pronouns after i, not the prepositional ones.

ʕayyánax: < ʕayyān "exhausted, tired, ill".

''isn't he currently in the state of being afraid, thus not having finished it?'': probably the imperfect means "become afraid".

PhoeniX

"aringí: no, the Tuareg cognate is anarag, so this really is i. It's short because it's followed by a consonant cluster."

I don't see how the Tuareg cognate shows that this is an i? This does seem like an example of Proto-Berber *a shifting to Aujila i though, again in front of r,l,m,n... It seems like this sound law might actually work out.

(and discussion of its origins in my thesis...) <-- I should really sit down and read that.

"i-kú 'to you': all Berber languages, as far as I know, use the full forms of pronouns after i, not the prepositional ones."

Really? I think that's actually news to me. I guess it's just because they're usually IO suffixes anyway.

Glen Gordon

Kato: "This story isn't about Jews, it's about a wily character [...]"

Suuuure.

Anyways, all cultures have some form of prejudice to grapple with in their society. What makes the study of modern cultures harder in some respects to historical study is that the prejudice can be closer to home. It's easy to wave away the Roman prejudice against Ancient Egyptians as silly because we're buffered by a large span of time. A proper ethnologist puts moral judgment aside while still acknowledging common attitudes within the studied culture. We seek too to find the reasons behind these views, no matter what we personally feel about them or how irrational we may think they are. It's not the ethnologist's place to be moral judge. Yet it is the ethnologist's purpose to document all relevant cultural phenomena and to avoid sweeping "less desirable" things under the rug either. All must be noted without judgment.

The Wikipedia link makes it abundantly clear that a long-term, negative attitude towards the Jewish minority in Libya has pervaded and this must be noted. It adds further dimension and social context to this story which helps us learn more about this culture, all its beauty and its ugliness together. Just like humans, no culture is perfect.

kato

Glen: I didn't say anything about historical attitudes towards Jews in Libya. I'm saying that I don't think you can detect that in this story, which is obviously a folktale rather than an anecdote. It might not even be Libyan in origin. Or it might be, we don't know. Žḥá is the main character, not the Jew, and with the other stories we've seen here, it's about what happens to him in the end, not about some larger societal dynamic.

PhoeniX

"Suuuure."

It's not necessary to reply in such a sarcastic manner. "I don't really believe that" would have sufficed.

Either way, I'll admit that the info on Jews in Libya as found on Wikipedia doesn't speak in favor of 'no prejudice about Jews'.

However, a more in-depth study of the Jew in Aujila (or maybe Libyan in general ) storytelling should give us more insight of the position of the Jew in stories. Sadly, we don't have more data in Aujila Berber about Jews to study their position.

We can't really see how old this story is, and whether it has always had a Jew as the dupe. If it did, and it has for hundreds of years, it would be hard to uphold that this is due to an Anti-Jewish sentiment.

"Jews lived in east and west Libya, in cities as well as very small rural villages, up until about the 1940s, when they started leaving. You can read all about that in other sources. I'm not sure that the Jewish exodus from Libya would have affected Awjila all that much."

This is also an important point. The fact that a Jew appears in this story at all is both strange and maybe somewhat anachronistic. I'm not sure when exactly the texts were written up, but it was published in 1960. In that time there were next to no Jews left in Libya, let alone in Aujila. The chance that any of the inhabitants of Aujila had ever seen a Jew in their life at the time is rather small. After all, Aujila is quite a secluded Oasis which I imagine was far from modernized in 1960, so what are the odds that in previous years anyone had even seen or known what a Jew looked like, let alone settle on establishing any of the prejudices about them were?

There's simply too little data to conclude whether an anti-Jewish sentiment has something to do with the Jewish character in this story.

Lameen

I haven't the faintest idea what Awjili attitudes towards Jews were in 1960, but reflexively focusing on the other character's Jewish identity misses the point. This story is closely parallel to the one in "Count it!", with a scholar instead of a Jew, and to many other Juha stories from outside Awjila (like the one about the European Juha who comes to try to outsmart the Arab Juha, and ends up getting fooled by the latter into propping up a wall). The common theme is: an outsider (whether Jew or Christian or Muslim) who thinks he's smart tries to make a fool of Juha, and Juha instead makes a fool of him.

Glen Gordon

Lameen: "This story is closely parallel to the one in "Count it!", with a scholar instead of a Jew, and to many other Juha stories from outside Awjila (like the one about the European Juha who comes to try to outsmart the Arab Juha, and ends up getting fooled by the latter into propping up a wall)."

Ah, eureka. Your point is so subtle I almost missed it had I not investigated further.

The Juha stories are mentioned in English Wikipedia under Nasreddin: "He appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke." And alas, I fear the tables have turned and Nasreddin has made an ass of me!

Anyways, I guess this is what I was looking for when I said that "an added social commentary would be beneficial here". Thanks.

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