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The Linguistic Landscape of Arabic in Israel: Hybridity and the Nation-State

Strand Campus, London

28 Oct mosque_hero

Israel passed the nationality law in July 2018, which demoted Arabic from its official position since 1922. This paper sheds light on how the Arabic language became a site of struggle over legitimacy, silencing and exclusion of the Palestinian citizens of Israel who constitute roughly 20% of Israel’s population. It is based on ethnographic research spreading from 2013-2018. The presentation focuses on the linguistic landscape (the public presence of Arabic) as a lens towards understanding the process of its marginalization. It is part of a larger project which investigates media discourse in and about Arabic, narrative of journalists, students and law makers. Underlying the marginalization of Arabic is the problematic identity of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Their position at the ‘seamline’ of not being quite Israeli has contributed to the diminishing role of Arabic (Eyal 2006). The analytical tools are hybridity and crossing in the nation-state.



Dr Camelia Suleiman, Associate Professor, Arabic Studies Program, Department of Linguistics and Languages, Michigan State University.

Camelia Suleiman has a Ph.D. in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University, with a specialization in Sociolinguistics and Discourse Analysis. Her research interest is in the area of language and identity in relation to gender, politicians' use of language in the media, and national identity, in both the American and the Arab countries’ contexts. Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals including ‘Pragmatics’, ‘Journal of Psycholinguistic Research’, ‘Middle East Critique’ and ‘Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication’. Her books are: ‘Language and Identity in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: The Politics of Self-Perception’ (London: I.B. Tauris 2011), and 'The Politics of Arabic in Israel: A Sociolinguistic Analysis’ (Edinburgh University press 2017).  Some of her publications were widely cited in the media. She has also received a number of awards and recognition including an award for ‘distinguished women in academia’ from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. At MSU she serves as the Arabic language coordinator, as well as she has directed the Arabic Flagship Program. Lastly, she is on the editorial boards of ‘Journal of Psycholinguistic Research’ and ‘Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless’.

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