Is There a Jewish Problem in Religious Studies & at the AAR?


The place of Judaism and Jews, in their tiny little corner in the study of Religion and at the AAR has been a running question as old as the AAR itself about which a little history could be written, and which, here below, is the subject of a scholarly panel at this year’s annual conference. I bet an answer to the panel’s question –Is There a Jewish Problem in the Study of Religion– has something to do with raw demographics, with cosmopolitanism and parochialism. As for the almost absolute non-place in the world of Continental Philosophy of Religion and Critical Theory, that is simply a long established fact relating to a intellectual disinterest at the border of prejudice. Maybe this year’s distinguished panel of colleagues and friends will get to the bottom of the problem.

Here below are the panel details, including the panel abstract and presenters. It will be be curious to see who and how many people attend the session. I hope the panel draws a crowd. Bring a friend. The open question, though, is this. As per the panel abstract, can “scholars of Judaism” do anything “to “more fruitfully encourage engagement with religious studies?” Here there’s something unclear. Is the point to engage Jews and Judaism with religious studies? That would be a good thing for the study of Judaism. Or is the point to engage religious studies with Jews and Judaism?”

Study of Judaism Unit Theme: Is There a Jewish Problem in Religious Studies? Monday, 9:00 AM–11:30 AM Convention Center-15A (Mezzanine Level)

Assembling a cadre of distinguished scholars working at the intersection of Jewish studies and religious studies, this panel will explore the fraught place of Judaism within the field of religious studies and beyond. Although the category of “religion” has come under increasing scrutiny and scholarly problematization in religious studies more generally, the study of religion continues to encounter a roadblock when trying to account for the particularities of Jewish difference and self-understandings. Together, we will discuss, how might explorations of the tensions between Judaism and “religion” open up new avenues of interrogation? In a post-Pittsburgh world, what does it mean to study Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism and what are the moral imperatives surrounding it in a time of increasingly explicit forms of racist hatred and bigotry? What can scholars of Judaism do to more fruitfully encourage engagement with religious studies?

Martin Kavka, Florida State University

Laura S. Levitt, Temple University

Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College

Shaul Magid, Indiana University

Sarah Imhoff, Indiana University

Paul Nahme, Brown University, and Shari Rabin, Oberlin College, Presiding



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Is There a Jewish Problem in Religious Studies & at the AAR?

  1. dmf says:

    be interested in what comes of it, still not clear why we still have religious studies apart from the institutional hangover of bible studies programs, as I saw departments of journalism and political science start to reclaim their studies of religious peoples I was sure that that trend would carry over to anthro or sociology and the like, the odd duck out being the place of theology in secular schools apart from say the history of ideas.

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