The Jewelers of the Ummah

The Jewelers of the Ummah:A Potential History of the Jewish Muslim World

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A deeply personal exploration into family, empire, art and identity - from the author of Potential History

Algeria’s Arab Jews were renowned for their metal-working and jewellery-making skills, and these jewellers of the ummah—the Arabic community—are, for Azoulay, the symbol of a world that can still be reclaimed and repaired.

In a series of letters written to her father, her great-grandmother, and her children—and to the thinkers and artists she claims as intellectual kin, such as Frantz Fanon and Hannah Arendt—Azoulaytraces the history of Arab Jewish life in Algeria, and how it was disrupted by French colonialism. She begins by asking how her family became assimilated into the identities of “Israeli,” “Jewish,” or “French.” As she does, she finds a whole lost world open up to her – the world of her family, the Arab Jews of Algeria. She traces how Arab Jews were severed from other Arabs, and how Arab Jews were severed from their Arabness by the Israeli vision of a Jewish diaspora, and sets out to repair those breaks and revive their world.

But it is in the return to the carefully crafted jewels, whose beautifully crafted objects act as messages to the future, reminds us of the conviviality of a world that existed long before colonial disruption, and whose memory challenges the imperial ways of thinking we have all inherited.