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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Judaism behind closed doors: ‘Christian ethnographies’ as ‘Hidden Transcripts' of Jewish life in Early Modern German Lands Seminar

10 March 2015
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Parkes Institute at .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute Seminar series

The lecture explores the phenomenon of polemical Christian ethnographies of Jews and Judaism that became a popular genre in German lands from the early 16th century onwards. These works described Jewish rituals and customs to a Christian audience and often boasted to disclose ‘Jewish secrets’ and hitherto unknown ‘hidden practices’ to Christian readers. A large number of these accounts were written by former Jews who had converted to Christianity and who used their intimate knowledge to position themselves as experts in Judaism. I will argue in my lecture that some of these controversial books can be regarded as a valuable source to understand Jewish responses to Christian domination. Written by former insiders, they are the ‘hidden transcripts’ of a beleaguered and persecuted religious and ethnic minority that developed various strategies to counter the all-pervasive and often violent power of Christian authority.

Speaker's biography

Maria Diemling is Senior Lecturer at the School of Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University. She gained her PhD from the University of Vienna and has worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Trinity College Dublin. An early modern historian, she has an ongoing research interest in the history of Jewish-Christian relations and particularly in how early modern Jews and Christians perceived and imagined each other. She has published on Jewish conversions, Christian ethnography of Jews and Judaism and Jewish responses to Christian dominance. Other research includes an exploration of Biblical motifs in the songs of Bruce Springsteen, the role of garlic in Jewish-Christian polemical discourse and Israeli postage stamps as a site of memory. She is currently working on food as a marker of religious and cultural identity and on how ideas about a specific ‘Jewish body’ developed in 16th and 17th century Europe. Her edited books include a volume on the Jewish Body in the Renaissance and Early Modern Period. She is also the co-editor of an online teaching resource on Jewish-non-Jewish relations aimed at undergraduate teaching and active in the British Association of Jewish Studies (BAJS).

Dr Maria Diemling

Speaker information

Dr Maria Diemling , Canterbury Christ Church University. Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies

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