Educational oases in the desert: the Alliance israélite universelle's girls' schools in Ottoman Iraq, 1895-1915

Sciarcon, Jonathan
SUNY Press
Call Number
LC2410.3 .S35 2017
Reference Only
Number of Pages
Library of Congress Subject Heading
Girls -- Education -- Iraq
Library of Congress Subject Heading 2
Jewish day schools -- Iraq -- History

A history of the French schools that pioneered female education in Ottoman Iraq's Jewish communities.During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU), a Paris-based Jewish organization, founded dozens of primary schools throughout the Middle East. Many were the first formal educational institutions for local Jewish children. In addition to providing secular education, the schools attempted to change local customs and “regenerate” or “uplift” communities. Educational Oases in the Desert explores the largely forgotten history of the AIU’s schools for girls in Ottoman Iraq. Drawing on extensive archival research, Jonathan Sciarcon argues that teachers viewed female education through a gendered lens linked to their understanding of an ideal modern society. As the primary educators of children, women were seen as society’s key agents of socialization. The AIU thus concluded that its boys’ schools would never succeed in creating polished, westernized men so long as women remained uneducated, leading to the creation of schools for girls. Sciarcon shows how headmistresses acted not just as educators but also as models of modernity, trying to impart new moral and aesthetic norms onto students.