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Deborah A. Starr



Deborah Starr is Associate Professor of Modern Arabic and Hebrew Literature and Film in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. She received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan in 2000. She is the author of Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt: Literature, Culture, and Empire (Routledge, 2009). She is also the co-editor, with Sasson Somekh, of Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff (Stanford University Press, 2011). She is currently at work on a new book about minorities in Egyptian cinema from the 1930s to the 1950s. Her research and teaching interests include cosmopolitanism, postcolonial studies, minorities of the Middle East, film, and urban studies.

Courses Taught

  • Middle Eastern Cinema
  • Minorities of the Middle East
  • Palestinians in Israel
  • Wondrous Literatures of the Near East
  • Modern Middle Eastern Literature in Translation
  • Cosmopolitanism, Tolerance, and Coexistence
  • Arab Jews

New Course Fall 2020:

Arab Jews (NES 4535)

4 credits. Tuesday 11:15-1:10 p.m.  

In this course we examine the modern identity politics of “Arab Jews.” This course integrates the history of Jewish migrations of the 20th century with literature and artistic expression by and about Arab Jews. Not all Jews who lived in Arab contexts spoke Arabic, or identified with Arab culture. We will examine a range of alternative identities embraced by modern Jews both within Arab countries and after migration: such as Sephardi; Mizrahi; and Levantine. We explore how Jews from Arabic-speaking regions navigated the emergence of both nationality and nationalisms in the early 20th century. We will also examine the literature and cultural production of Arab Jewish diasporas, with particular attention to the identity politics and political activism of Arab Jews in Israel. We will conclude by examining recent literature and visual media produced in Arabic that reflect upon the history and culture of Arab Jews, challenging received nationalist narratives.


  • Comparative Literature
  • Jewish Studies Program
  • Near Eastern Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Comparative Literature
  • Film and Video Studies
  • Near Eastern Studies


  • Modern Arabic and Hebrew literature
  • Critical Theory
  • Middle Eastern Film
  • Contemporary Egyptian Culture
  • Mizrahi Literature and Culture
  • Minority Communities of the Middle East
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Film Studies
  • Urban Studies


Fall 2020



  • Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt: Literature, Culture and Empire. (Routledge 2009).
  • Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff.  Co-edited with Sasson Somekh. (Stanford University Press 2011).


  • “In Bed Together: Coexistence in Togo Mizrahi’s Alexandria Films” in Post-Ottoman Co-Existence: Sharing Space in the Shadow of Conflict, edited by Rebecca Bryant. Oxford: Berghahn Books (March 2106).
  • Masquerade and the Performance of National Imaginaries: Levantine Ethics, Aesthetics, and Identities in Egyptian Cinema. Journal of Levantine Studies,  1:2 (Winter 2011), 31-57 .
  • “Sensing the City: Representations of Cairo’s Harat al-Yahud,” Prooftexts,  26: 1-2 (2006), 138-162.
  • “Drinking, Gambling, and Making Merry: Waguih Ghali’s Search for Cosmopolitan Agency,” Middle Eastern Literatures 9:3 (2006).
  • “Recuperating Cosmopolitan Alexandria: Circulation of Narratives and Narratives of Circulation,” Cities. 22:3 (2005), 217-228.
  • “Reterritorializing the Dream: Orly Castel-Bloom’s Remapping of Israeli Identity.” Mapping Jewish Identities, edited by Laurence J. Silberstein. New York: NYU Press, 2000. 220-249.
  • “Egyptian Representation of Israeli Culture: Normalizing Propaganda or Propagandizing Normalization?” Review Essays in Israel Studies. Books on Israel, edited by Laura Eisenberg and Neil Caplan, vol. 5. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000. 263-282.

 Reviews and Short Entries

  • Review of In Spite of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination, by Gil Hochberg. For Comparative Literature Studies. 48:1 (2011). 119-122.

  • Entry on “Maurice Shammas” for The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill (2010).

  • Review of Three Faces of Beauty: Casablanca, Paris, Cairo, by Susan Ossman.  For Comparative Literature Studies. 41:4 (2005). 608-610.
  • Review of The Experimental Arabic Novel: Postcolonial Literary Modernism in the Levant,  by Stefan Meyer. For Comparative Literature Studies 41:2 (2004). 303-306.
  • Entry on “Edwar al-Kharrat” for The Encyclopedia of African Literature. New York, London: Routledge (2003). 266.
  • Review of Zionism: The Limits of Moral Discourse in Israeli Hebrew Fiction, by Yerach Gover. For The International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 44:1 (2002). 184-5.
  • Review of Hebrew Culture in America, by Moshe Pelli. For Hebrew Studies. 41 (2000).  361-363.