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[Edited Volume CFP] Jewish Learning in Cultural Arts Contexts

Deadline: March 1, 2020

What happens when Jewishly-identified visitors visit Jewish cultural spaces? What do they say, do, think, and feel? What do they learn about Jewish culture, people, or history—or about themselves? This new project invites proposals for original research on engagements with Jewish culture that focus on the learning experiences of Jewishly identified participants. Learning is understood broadly for these purposes; it can include the gathering of information, the process of reflecting on one’s own commitments or self-understanding, the raising of questions, the formation of groups or a sense of belonging to a group, or the transmission of content. We are interested in understanding how Jewish visitors to these spaces learn about Judaism and about themselves by engaging with Jewish culture.

In the context of Jewish demographic research, cultural arts have been proposed as a solution to a secularity “problem,” in which it is suggested that the cultural arts offer more accessible venues for “Jews of no religion” to celebrate their secular Jewish sense of belonging than “religious” spaces, such as synagogues. This hypothesis may or may not be true; in order to know, we need to understand the phenomenon far more deeply than we do, with attention to the learning experiences of different demographic groups in different kinds of cultural arts spaces. This project proposes that cultural venues reveal the dynamic ways in which Judaism – considered across the domains of religion and culture – is learned and relearned by Jews across generational, ideological and geographical spectrums.

To that end, this project is accepting proposals for original scholarship that examines different dimensions of the intersections between Jewish learners and Jewish culture. The primary purpose is developing a greater understanding of the Jewish subject who engages with Jewish cultural content and settings in the United States and around the world. Critical analyses of the objects of cultural arts lie outside of the domain of this particular project, as do evaluations of the Jewish “provenance” of Jewish cultural products and productions. While those are worthy themes to explore in other settings, the focus of this particular project is on the experience of Jewishly identified learners in Jewish cultural spaces. This project will not prescribe a normative definition of Jewish identification nor of Jewish culture, but rather take the Jewish self-identifications of both the learners and the setting at face value.

The goal of the project is to produce an edited volume that advances our understanding of Jewish learning in cultural spaces. The project will commence with a convening of contributors, with potential for collaboration and conversation as the project continues.

Submissions that respond to the following topics are particularly encouraged:

  • Site-specific research that documents processes of learning in a particular venue, such as a museum, book fair, film festival, music production, JCC, etc. This includes settings in which Jewish participants function simultaneously as learners and producers of cultural arts, such as those that enable participants to create visual art, sing, act, or engage in creative writing.
  • Generationally and ideologically situated experiences in cultural arts spaces: research that documents the learning experiences of a particular demographic, or ideologically identified group of participants in a cultural environment, e.g., young adults, baby boomers, Jews who identify as secular/cultural, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc.
  • Dynamics of community formation through the cultural arts: research that documents ways in which learning communities of thought and practice emerge through cultural arts participation.
  • Research on how engagement with cultural arts complements, complicates, challenges, or intensifies learners’ experiences in other Jewish settings, such as school, synagogue, camp, or community gathering space.

Send a proposal of no more than 1500 words to Laura Yares (yareslau@msu.edu) by March 1, 2020 along with a 1-page CV. Please explicitly reference your site of research in your proposal, and clearly state whether this proposal will analyze data already collected or whether it relies upon anticipated research. If the latter, please also include a timeline for your data collection and a budget (modest research support may be available). Your proposal should also explicitly state how your research project will contribute to and advance the theme of the volume.

Authors will be notified of decisions by April 20.