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Jael Silliman: “Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women’s Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope”
March 1, 2011 @ 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
In the nineteenth and twentieth centures the Baghdadi Jewish diaspora stretched from Basra to Shanghai, with Calcutta acting as an important trading center on that route. During that time Calcutta was home to a thriving Jewish community that played an important role in the City’s mercantile development. After India’s Independence, 1947, the community relocated mostly to the Western world. Dr. Silliman, who is a member of that community, will talk about the material, religious and cultural life of the community, and trace the history of this diaspora community through the lives of four generations of women in her family. She will challenge many conventional notions of what it means to live in diaspora, reframe the role that women played in this traveling community, and highlights the ways in which their fluid identities enabled this economically successfull Jewish community to negotiate both colonialism and nationalism to advance their own interests.
Jael Silliman now resides in Calcutta, India. She is an independent Consultant, serves on the Board of Breakthrough for Human Rights, and the Indian Holdeen Fund. She is writing a book of short stories.
Prior to returning to India, Jael served as the Program Officer for Women’s Rights & Gender Equity in the Human Rights Unit, Peace and Social Justice Program of the Ford Foundation. Immediately before that, she was the Program Officer for Reproductive Rights. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation she had been a tenured Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of Iowa.
Jael is the recipient of the Iowa City Human Rights Commission International Human Rights Award and an Open Society Fellow. She is the author of numerous books and articles. Her most recent co-authored book, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, received a 2005 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award in the area of bigotry and human rights. She is also the author of Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women’s Narratives from A Diaspora of Hope, and co-editor of Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment and Policing the National Body: Race, Gender and Criminalization.