Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS) is an interdisciplinary academic journal dedicated to the critical study of the geographical, social, and cultural settings which, in various periods of history, have been known as the "Levant." The journal is published biannually in English in print and online by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
JLS aims to reclaim the Levant as a historical and political concept and as a category of identity and classification. The notion of the Levant has undergone a dynamic process of historical evolution in usage, meaning, and understanding. While the term "Levantine" originally referred to the European residents of the eastern Mediterranean region, it later came to refer to regional "native" and "minority" groups. As it developed alongside colonial practices and Eurocentric attitudes, the notion gradually acquired derogatory connotations in its everyday and academic usage. Intellectuals and social thinkers from the region renounced the term while simultaneously embracing and rejecting Western prejudices and attempting to avoid identification with larger regional units, which directly contradicted twentieth-century attempts to build nation-states. Meanwhile, in academia, the term has been largely relegated and confined to the fields of archaeology and literature.
Current trends in scholarship investigating various social and political "peripheries" have favored the development of internal discourses that originate within so-called margins and define themselves in their own cultural terms. (In this reorientation, terms with pejorative connotations, much like the Levant, have often been reclaimed). At the same time, scholars of postcolonial and subaltern theory have also suggested overturning the dominant discourse and even provincializing Europe itself. Similarly, rethinking regions such as the Levant as central to academic inquiry and re-conceptualizing Europe and other historically dominant regions as provinces may prove worthwhile. This reformulation may prove relevant to the Levant, whose geographical and conceptual maps, boundaries, and groupings have long been drawn with a Eurocentric pencil. Framing the Levant as a category of analysis creates a unique platform with novel possibilities for academic discussion and can trigger productive debate and theoretical and empirical scholarship on the Levant and Levantines in various geographical and historical contexts.
Re-conceptualization of the Levant as a useful category of analysis and classification could problematize and possibly reshape conceptual maps of the region by taking various subaltern perspectives into consideration, and posit the Levant as an active agent rather than as a passive object.
The Editorial Board welcomes scholarly debate on the symbolic and theoretical significance of the Levant as well as on the political, social, and cultural manifestations of reality for the people of the region. The journal looks to publish articles that engage contemporary academic discussions on relevant socio-political topics including (but not limited to) processes of religion and secularization, the construction of memory, literary and linguistic streams, the migration of knowledge and people, consumerism and commercial networks, globalization, and the study of nationality and trans-nationalism.
JLS publishes articles focused on the modern era, which begins, symbolically, with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. This date symbolizes the realization of Western fears of a clash with the Muslim and Eastern (Oriental) world on the one hand, and on the other the diverse and symbiotic social processes between religions and people—including the migration of ideas, art, people and goods—which continue to define the development and character of the Levant. As such, we adopted a chronological focal point that pays tribute to the history of the region and avoids the traditionally Western notion of 1492 as the watershed moment for global diffusion.