Language, identity, and exile

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The exilic mode of being, a living on boundary-lines, produces a constant relativization of one's home, one's culture, one's language, and one's self, through the acknowledgement of otherness. It is a homesickness without nostalgia, without the desire to return to the same, to be identical to oneself. The encounter with the other which produces a 'transvaluation' of one's own culture is also the ultimately ethical experience of reading oneself in quotation marks. Yeshurun's work -fragmented, broken -is exilic in its bifurcation, or multifurcation of consciousness, the superimposition of the language of 'there' over the language of 'here'. His descriptions of Tel-Aviv, the white, modern, energetic emblem of the thrust to 'make it new' are oddly and imperfectly plastered over by images of dilapidated buildings, uprooted trees and rusty, dripping faucets. It is as though the poverty of a diasporic, displaced existence has crept in and coloured over the façade of the new which, torn from within, is already showing its fault-lines and cracks. Avot Yeshurun's longing for home does not yield to the consolations of kitsch or the retrospective colourings of an idealized 'before', and the anguish of guilt is its motor force. Yeshurun's hybrid poetry with its bricolage of linguistic fragments and shards finds its materials in the debris of a dead culture. Enacting the return of the culturally repressed, the ghostly return of the sacrificed mame-loshn with all the pain, the love, and perhaps the inevitability of the repression, it does not seek to go back, to offer a remedy, or mend the rift (more bottomless than the eponymous Syrian-African geological one) with the exilic home-language. Rather more modest and infinitely more difficult, it is the labour of mourning that it undertakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-445
Number of pages6
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Translated into Arabic and published in Qadia Israelia (Ramalla, June 2007), app. 15 pp. Reprinted in Diasporic Philosophy and Counter-Education, ed. Ilan Gur-Zeev (Roterdam, Sense Publications).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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