Elections: Sephardic Forum Executive Committee Nomination

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    Monique Rodrigues Balbuena

    Dear MLA Sephardic Forum Members,

    Thank you for the opportunity to run for a position on the Sephardic Forum Executive Committee. The voting will close at midnight (EST) on 10 December.

    I would like to introduce myself and share some of my interests and goals. I am Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. I received my PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a Starr Fellow in the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard. I was also a Frankel Fellow in the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, and a Visiting Professor in the Center for Languages and Literatures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

    I have written about Sephardic multilingual poetry, Latin American Sephardic literature, Ladino poetry, translation, and tango. My book Homeless Tongues: Poetry and Languages of the Sephardic Diaspora(Stanford UP, 2016) reads three multilingual Jewish poets—from Algeria, Israel, and Argentina—and shows how they express a hybrid or composite identity through a choice of languages and intertexts. The book makes a case for the inclusion of Sephardic works in the canon of Jewish literature. Homeless Tongues was selected as a finalist of the National Jewish Book Award in the category of Sephardic Culture. In my current work I am interested in the contemporary use of Ladino in poetry and song, and in Sephardic literary representations of the Holocaust (another field in which the Sephardic experience is not duly integrated in the main narrative).

    Through my writings and my participation in conferences I have worked for the growth of Sephardic literary studies and for greater recognition of Sephardic culture among Jews and non-Jews alike. I plan to continue this work, creating ways to promote studies being done on Eastern and Western Sepharadim and on their languages. I would like to continue supporting the study of contemporary Sephardic culture—comprehending literature, poetry, music, theatre, and beaux-arts—, while considering the broad geographical reach that the Sephardic Diaspora has taken in its successive stages.

    Thank you.

    Monique Rodrigues Balbuena


    Payton Phillips-García Quintanilla

    Dear Members of the MLA Sephardic Forum:

    First of all, my thanks to Monique for beginning this thread; it is an honor to have been nominated alongside such a dynamic and accomplished professor. As an early career academic, I also welcome this opportunity to introduce myself to a community of scholars that I hope to work with in the years to come.

    I earned my Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from UCLA in 2018, specializing in early modern transatlantic studies, and from 2018-19 I was an Ahmanson-Getty Postdoctoral Fellow at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (Los Angeles). I am now a full-time Lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and a part-time Research Assistant in the Getty Research Institute’s Scholars Program (The Getty Center). My interest in Sephardic languages and literatures is both academic and community-driven, scholarly and practical. As such, it actively connects the medieval and early modern eras to our modern and contemporary worlds, and spans diverse physical, cultural, and literary geographies.

    • During my tenure as a graduate student, I was twice named a Maurice Amado Fellow in Sephardic Studies (2014-15, 2015-16) by the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies in recognition of my leadership roles in ucLADINO. This student-run organization (faculty sponsor: Dr. Sarah Abrevaya Stein) engages campus and community stakeholders in the teaching, learning, and preservation of Judeo-Spanish languages and cultures. The most rewarding aspect of my participation in ucLADINO was serving as an ally to local Sephardim who were actively promoting and/or recuperating their own use of Judeo-Spanish.
    • I am a founder and continuing member of UCLA’s Hebrew Aljamiado Research Group (director: Dr. John Dagenais). Our team employs digital tools to locate, catalog, and analyze Hebrew aljamiado texts, medieval through modern. By organizing symposia and workshops, we also train students, scholars, and community members in these skills. Currently, we are transcribing and annotating a Ladino text printed in Rashi script and published in Salonika in 1857: the Judeo-Spanish translation of Kalonymus ben Kalonymus’s early 14th century Hebrew translation from the Arabic of the 21st epistle of the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity (late 10th-early 11th century; Basra, Iraq).
    • I am also applying my background in early modern studies to support Latin American Sephardim in their applications for Spanish citizenship. With Dr. Roger Louis Martínez-Dávila (Associate Professor of History, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs), I research and co-author academic reports for inclusion in petitioners’ legal dossiers. Acting as scholars of history and literature rather than as genealogists, we provide original research on Sephardic families and communities that is firmly based on archival documents, complemented by historiographic and literary texts, and supported by extant peer-reviewed scholarship.
    • Finally, my ongoing individual research seeks to incorporate the diverse lived experiences and cultural productions of early modern Sephardim into the research I conducted for my dissertation (“Imperial Occlusions: Mestizaje and Marian Mechanisms in Early Modern Andalucía and the Andes,” directed by Dr. Barbara Fuchs), which focused primarily on Peninsular Moriscos and Andean Mestizos.


    I want to thank you for considering my nomination to the MLA Sephardic Forum’s Executive Committee, and also for welcoming me as a colleague into this group. I look forward to our future conversations and collaborations.


    Payton Phillips-García Quintanilla

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