Acknowledging loss, materializing language: translation and hermeneutics of gaps in nineteenth century Baghdad

Avi ram Tzoreff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article focuses on Rabbi Yosef Hayyim's discussions of translation and hermeneutics, as a reflection of the broad movements between languages throughout the Ottoman Empire and the Indian Ocean, and the linguistic inequalities that characterized them. Reading Hayyim against his Baghdadi context, considering the printing and translational activities of the British missionaries of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews and the hermeneutics that were developed in the Baghdadi Salafiyya, I argue that Hayyim's opposition to the translation of Jewish Kabbalistic knowledge should not be seen as a conservative approach that prevents its popularization, but as an understanding of the linguistic power relations involved within the act of translation. Juxtaposed vis-à-vis his uses of Arabic translations in other responsas and his call for the teaching of standard Arabic in Jewish schools in Baghdad, that cohered with the Nahdawi perception of Arabic as a major aspect of the Ottoman Mashriq Arab political community, I argue that these incidents reflect different intersections of languages and power that occurred in the urban sphere of Ottoman Baghdad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Kabbalah
  • Middle Eastern Jews
  • Missionaries
  • Multilingualism
  • Nahda
  • Ottoman Baghdad
  • Salafiyya
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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