An interdisciplinary, international conference sponsored by the AHRB Parkes Centre for the Study of Jewish/ non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton, UK and the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 6-8 January 2003.
The Port Jews Conference arises from an international and interdisciplinary project based at the AHRB Parkes Centre for the Study of Jewish/ non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton. This project was inspired by the ideas of Professor Lois Dubin and Professor David Sorkin who first provided a definition for a ‘port Jew.’ The comprehension of port Jewish history is central to the understanding of modern Jewish history. The notion of ‘port Jews’, like the earlier identification of ‘court Jews’ as harbingers of Jewish modernity has offered a major insight into the development of European societies in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, the conditions which encouraged the development of tolerant and pluralistic communities, and the origins of Jewish modernity.
The aims of the Port Jews project are: to investigate the extent to which the pragmatism and pluralism of port cities offered a haven for Jews in an era of exclusivity and intolerance, to evaluate how far the cosmopolitan environment of ports accelerated acculturation or new ways of thinking in the Jewish minority, to use the case of Jewish migration, settlement and trading activity to analyse the function of ports as junction points in a communication network that facilitated intellectual traffic as well as commerce and to explore whether the port Jews in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries may be seen as a potential model for understanding the entrepreneurial success and cultural creativity of contemporary ‘global tribes’.
The ‘port Jew’ type may also be utilised for understanding the character of Jewish settlements in port cities in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and shed light on Jewish migration and settlement in the modern era, the impact of Jewish immigration, and the uniqueness of cosmopolitan maritime trading centres. The study of ‘port Jews’ in a comparative framework illuminates the formation of diaspora, diasporic identities, and connects Jewish history and culture with post-colonial studies. The study of ‘port Jews’ is interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary; it involves historians, museologists, oral historians and memoriologists, geographers, and archaeologists.
The conference will take place on 6 – 8 January 2003 at the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Limited funding will be available for contributors. Accommodation will be provided by the University of Cape Town.
The organisers welcome the submission of proposals for papers on any of the above or related topics. Further information about the project may be found at http://www.soton.ac.uk/~parkes/. Proposals should be submitted by 28 February 2002. Proposals should be in the form of an abstract of no more than 250 words with full details of institutional affiliation, email, phone, fax, and postal address.
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