This site was started in January of 2008 by Josh Berer. It is meant to be a catalogue of several strands of my life, as I try and balance these worlds. Since 2003 I have moved to a different place every year. I recently moved to Washington DC from Bloomington, Indiana where I was in grad school for Central Asian studies. My focus was on Uzbek and Dari languages and contemporary history. Before Indiana, I lived briefly in Chicago, and before that Sana’a, Yemen. I moved to Yemen after a year of work for the Regional Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev. I returned to Israel/Palestine in September 2008 after six months in Los Angeles, where I worked at a cheese store, and then a rare book dealer’s warehouse.
Prior to those six months, I spent another six months in Sana’a, where I studied Arabic language and literature and taught English to Yemenis at a private language institute. I graduated from the University of Washington in June of 2007 with a degree in Near Eastern Languages. While my focus was in Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish also played roles. I managed, somehow, to go to 5 universities in 4 years, (Hebrew U in Jerusalem, Bard College in NY, Bogazici Universitesi in Istanbul, UW, University of Jordan, back to UW) which is part of where the name of this blog comes from.
I live with my girlfriend Rachael Strecher, whose photography graces most of my posts.
She has covered news stories in South Africa, Australia, Israel/Palestine, the Russian invasion of Georgia, post-Katrina New Orleans, and Yemen. You can see more of her work at Lightstalkers.
You can check out my other blog of Arabic – English translations at Hans Wehr’s Disciples.
Arabic and Islamic book arts
Ottoman Calligraphy and its practice
Endangered languages and their preservation
Isolated Jewish communities in the Islamic world
Folktales and storytelling
Arabic poetry and recitation
Modern Arab and Islamic graphic design
Turkic linguistics and dialectology
Iranian linguistics and dialectology
Minority languages in Central Asia
“The ethnosphere is humanity’s great legacy. It’s the symbol of all that we are and all that we can be as an astonishingly inquisitive species. And just as the biosphere has been severely eroded, so too is the ethnosphere — and if anything at a far greater rate. No biologists, for example, would dare suggest that 50 percent of all species are moribund or on the brink of extinction because it simply is not true, and yet that — the most apocalyptic scenario in the realm of biological diversity — scarcely approaches what we know to be the most optimistic scenario in the realm of cultural diversity. And the great indicator of that, of course, is language loss.”
-Wade Davis, Preserving the Ethnosphere
“For a long while I have believed, this is perhaps my version of Darius Xerxes Cama’s belief in a fourth function of outsidedness, that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race, that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers perhaps, that in some, the phenomenon may be as natural a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that, for those who value stability, who fear resistance, uncertainty, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform. we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skin of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams, alone in our beds (because we are alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our art, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment, tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the artist, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveler, the gangster, the runner, the mask. If we did not recongnize in them our least-fulfilled needs we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.”
-Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet