Prof. Liora R. Halperin - University of Washington
Historian of Israel/Palestine, Modern Jewish History
I am an Associate Professor of International Studies, History, and Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where I also hold the Jack and Rebecca Benaroya Endowed Chair in Israel Studies.
My ongoing research focuses on Jewish cultural history and collective memory, the history of Zionism, language ideology and policy, and the politics surrounding nation formation in Palestine/Israel, particularly during the interwar period and the first decades of Israeli statehood.
My first book, Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948, was published by Yale University Press and awarded the Shapiro Prize from the Association for Israel Studies for best book in Israel Studies.
In 2016-2017 I was a fellow at the University of Michigan's Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies, where I began work on a second book project, "The Oldest Guard: Narratives of Beginnings in Palestine and Israel." A locally-based study of the European Jewish agricultural colonies first established in late 19th century Palestine, I explore national memory and commemoration, the politics of heroism and "firstness," and the often ambiguous place of these early colonies in evolving narratives about the origins and implications of the Zionist settlement project in Palestine.
I teach courses on the history of Israel/Palestine, Jewish History, and the Modern Middle East, as well as comparative courses on history and memory, diaspora, and urban studies.
I've lectured widely to university and community audiences at the University of Chicago, Yale, Oxford, UCLA, the University of Southern California, Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin, Middlebury College, Bard College and in a variety of public venues.
I have also been faculty in Modern Jewish History, in Dallas and Denver, for the Wexner Heritage Program, an intensive Jewish Studies course for Jewish community leaders.
Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948 (Yale University Press, 2015).
The promotion and vernacularization of Hebrew, traditionally a language of Jewish liturgy and study, was a central accomplishment of the Zionist movement in Palestine in the years following World War I. Viewing twentieth-century history through the lens of language, author Liora Halperin questions the accepted scholarly narrative of a Zionist move away from multilingualism, demonstrating how Jews in Palestine remained connected linguistically by both preference and necessity to a world outside the boundaries of the pro-Hebrew community even as it promoted Hebrew and achieved that language’s dominance. The story of language encounters in Jewish Palestine is a fascinating tale of shifting power relationships, both locally and globally. Halperin’s absorbing study explores how a young national community was compelled to modify the dictates of Hebrew exclusivity as it negotiated its relationships with its Jewish population, Palestinian Arabs, the British, and others outside the margins of the national project and ultimately came to terms with the limitations of its hegemony in an interconnected world.
Order a copy of the book here (Amazon)
or here (Yale University Press)
Interview about the book on the Ottoman History Podcast, April 4, 2016.
Interview about the book on the New Books in History Podcast, September 10, 2015
Reviews of Babel in Zion:
* American Historical Review (Review by Jess Olson)
* International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Review by Barbara Mann)
* Modern Judaism (Review by Shaul Magid)
* Review by Ruvik Rosenthal on his blog, Ha-zirah ha-leshonit (The Language Arena) [in Hebrew]
* Review by Yoni Furas in Ha-Mizrah He-Hadash [in Hebrew]
* Review by Hizky Shoham in Israel [in Hebrew]
* Review by Mikhail Krutikov in The Yiddish Daily Forward [in Yiddish]