(Ari Kelman, AJS Bingo)
I love the intimate scale of the annual conference of the Association of Jewish Studies (AJS). It’s small-scaled and intimate, meaning that everyone knows everyone. You run into the same people on a constant basis, and after twenty years of going to the AJS, you know almost all of them, and even the people you don’t know you pass by and begin to recognize. (The Association of) Jewish Studies is a very close network culture. People are genuinely familiar with each other. Removed from the world, the conference re-creates that network in its most crystallized form. Gossiping with old friends and mapping, plotting, planning conceptual trajectories and scholarly projects. This year there seemed to be lots of new faces, young people, assistant professors and graduate students, without whom there is no buzz. It wasn’t always the case, but I want to think the AJS has turned into an ideal place for philosophy. The conceptual parameters might be broader, more global at the American Academy of Religion, but there’s more critical mass at the AJS, more focus, more people, more panels, more bodies in a smaller space. The modern Jewish thought section was particularly bright this year. Panels and papers on Jewish law, German Jewish philosophical orientalism, and roundtables, one on Judith Butler, one on Jewish history and Jewish philosophy, one on Mordecai Kaplan, and lightning panels with graduate students. Actually, I don’t think I heard the words “alterity” or “messianic” or “revelation” much more than maybe only once.