Mondays at the Museum Series: Dr. Evelyn Dean Olmsted

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Venue:Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

Mexico City is home to a vibrant Jewish population that includes Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Halebi (Aleppan) and Shami (Damascene/Beiruti) sectors. These categories have long organized local Jewish life. However, young people in the 21st face unique challenges as they make decisions about their education, marriage and religiosity amidst changing social and economic tides. In this context, how and why do young Shami- and Halebi-Mexicans decide to perpetuate their distinctive, “Arab-Jewish” identities? How is this accomplished in their everyday lives? What might this tell us about the future of Jewish Latin America?

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In this presentation, Dr. Dean-Olmsted presents on research conducted since 2006, including a year spent living and participating in Jewish Mexican communities in 2008-2009. She analyzes audiovisual recordings of interactions across multiple contexts, toward understanding how Shami- and Halebi-Mexicans use language– including words from Hebrew and Arabic, and a healthy dose oral humor – in ways that allow them to both construct unique identities and forge connections in the wider world.

FIU members, Free for FIU Students, Staff and Faculty. Non-Members $5.00

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Dr. Evelyn María Dean-Olmsted is a linguistic anthropologist and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. For the 2018-2019 academic year, she is a Visiting Researcher at the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. While at FIU, she will be completing her book manuscript, To be Mexican, Jewish and Arab: The Pragmatics of Diaspora. Dean-Olmsted has published in the academic journals Anthropological Quarterly, Language and Communication, and Diversidad Cultural, With Susana Skura of the Universitdad de Buenos Aires, she has co-authored pioneering works on the Spanish of Jewish Latin Americans in two handbooks dedicated to “Jewish languages” (Brill 2016 and De Gruyter Mouton 2018). She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including from Fulbright-Hays, the Tinker Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Berman Foundation Early Career Fellowship, and the Paula E. Hyman Mentoring Fellowship. Her latest project on converts to Judaism in Puerto Rico is supported by an institutional grant from the University of Puerto Rico.