Professor Tudor V. Parfitt
Wednesday August 29, 2012
Professor Tudor V. Parfitt M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon) FRSA, FRGS, FRHistS, Corresponding Fellow of the Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer
In 1963 Parfitt spent a year with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Jerusalem where he worked with handicapped people, some of whom had survived the Nazi concentration camps. Upon his return to Britain, he studied Hebrew and Arabic at the University of Oxford. In 1968 he was awarded the Goodenday Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He completed a D.Phil at Oxford with David Patterson and Albert Hourani on the history of the Jews in Palestine and their relations with their Muslim neighbours, which was subsequently expanded and published by the Royal Historical Society. In 1972 was appointed lecturer in Hebrew language, literature and history at the University of Toronto. In 1974 he was appointed Parkes Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non Jewish Relations in the University of Southampton and shortly afterwards took up the lectureship in Modern Hebrew at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. He was appointed associate member of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and in 1992 became a senior associate member. He was successively lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor (Professor of Modern Jewish Studies) at SOAS. He founded the Centre of Jewish Studies and was its director from 1993 to 2006 and from 2010-11. He was also Chair of the Middle East Centre at SOAS for 4 years and Chair of the Senior Common Room for 15 years. In 2012 he was Distinguished Visiting Scholar, (Global Engagement Program) at the University of Pennsylvania, Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow (Spring Term) at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Harvard University (where he gave the Huggins Lectures in 2011) and Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, Cape Town, South Africa. Over his career his chief academic interests have included the Sephardi/Mizrahi communities of the Muslim world, Jewish-Muslim relations, Hebrew and Hebrew Literature, Judaising Movements, Jewish genetic identity and the discourses surrounding it, attitudes towards Jews and Zionism in South Asia and Jews in Asia and Africa. His interest in 'exotic' and marginal Jewish groups throughout the world led him in the 1990s to take an interest in the Judaizing Lemba tribe of southern Africa. In recognition of this work he was made corresponding fellow of the Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer. His book about the Lemba Journey to the Vanished City was awarded the Wingate Trustees’ Prize. He was the vice president of SOSTEJE (The Society for the Study of Ethiopian Jewry) from 1997-2005 and in 2010 was appointed honorary president of the International Society for the Study of African Jewry.