Holy Days Crown Heights Riot (Reading Lis Harris, Jean Baudrillard, and Anna Deavere Smith)

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Last week my American Judaism grad seminar, we read Lis Harris’ Holy Days, a mid 1980s chronicle about her explorations into the Lubavitch community. We read her text along with Haym Soloveitchik’s “Rupture and Transformation,” and passages from Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations as a way to interrogate critically and sympathetically the appearance of “the real” in relation to religion and to the semblance of tradition. Harris performs the transition between secular and religious worlds, artificially constructed and almost bubble like in character. But worlds collide. With some time to kill at the end of class, we turned on the computer-projector and watched segments from Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, about the Crown Heights riots. A hard watch. What I find interesting is how all these works fit into the same basic time and piece around the mid 1980s and early 1990s, that time when religion and spirituality make their way into the popular, mid-brow, and highbrow American vernaculars, pressed by conditions defined by postmodernism, identity, and race.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to Holy Days Crown Heights Riot (Reading Lis Harris, Jean Baudrillard, and Anna Deavere Smith)

  1. What do you make of Chaim Potok’s work in this context?

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