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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Call for papers

Published: 15 May 2014

International Conference, All Africa House, University of Cape Town, 14-16 April 2015 ‘Old World, New World: Jews in Transition’

The Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town; the Parkes Institute, University of Southampton;  and the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, University of Sydney.

In a series of conferences between 2001 and 2007, the Kaplan Centre and the Parkes Institute developed the concept of the ‘Port Jew', exploring whether it was applicable across time and place. These conferences and their subsequent publications analysed whether these maritime centres were more tolerant and accepting of diversity and, through a range of global case studies, asked if   Jews living in or passing through them were more dynamic and less rooted in traditional politics than those in other settings. Subsequent conferences broadened this analysis to include concepts of place, space and identity, the archive, the family and migration, and the Jewish journey itself. More recent conferences, organised in partnership with the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, have placed the Jewish experience in relation to the colonial and postcolonial worlds, including the impact of the Holocaust on race thinking after 1945 in comparative transnational contexts.

Throughout these innovative academic gatherings the concept of the Port Jew has kept its importance and relevance, provoking questions of liminal spaces and contested identities both within the Jewish world and between the Jewish and non-Jewish spheres.  The April 2015 conference will build upon this rich and varied foundation by considering this site of transition in a broader sense as Jews have moved (physically and intellectually) between ‘old world, new world'. What has been the Jewish experience and response - positive, negative and ambivalent - to this movement? How has the old world Jewish presence impacted upon the new world? Have Jewish and non-Jewish communities embraced or resisted this transition? How has that transition been represented in text - secular and religious - and by the image? Is the ‘old world, new world' paradigm only applicable, as with narrower definitions of the Port Jew, to the age of mercantilism onwards or does it have relevance to the worlds of antiquity and the middle ages?

In line with previous conference topics we envisage thematic time frames (pre-colonial to colonial; colonial to postcolonial; pre-Holocaust to Holocaust; the Holocaust and after) with possible themes for papers including, but not limited to:

  • Antisemitism between old world and new
  • Politics and political structures
  • The movement from countryside to shtetls, shtetls to towns, towns to cities,  east to west, north to south, forced or voluntary
  • The ‘journey' as a catalyst for and site of transition
  • Language and translation
  • Integration and assimilation
  • Emancipation and secularisation
  • Modernity and religious transition
  • Religious difference and tolerance
  • Self-identification and the politics of naming
  • Clothing, dress, appearance
  • Food and foodways
  • Production and consumption
  • Representations - art, music, film, television and beyond
  • Museums and memorialisation
  • Writing and re-writing the ‘old world, new world'  in fact and fiction
  • The transformation of cultural practice and performance

Papers are welcome from those working in different disciplines and from all chronologies and geographies.

The Kaplan Centre will provide up to four nights' accommodation at All Africa House for those presenting papers at the conference.

Proposals up to 300 words to be sent to Dr James Jordan ( by 1 September 2014.

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