Conference on the Contemporary Russian-Speaking Jewish Diaspora
November 14–15, 2011, at Harvard University
The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, with the cooperation of the American Councils for International Education and the Russian Foundation for Humanities , invites submissions of paper proposals for an international conference on the Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora that has been formed over the past four decades.
The emigration of about 1.5 million Jews from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in several large waves since the mid-1970s—more than three times as many as those who remain—has affected Jewish life in its successor states and in the host countries. The post-1989 migration of Jews from the FSU, for example, constitutes the single largest immigration in the sixty-two-year history of Israel and the largest group of Jews to come to the United States and to Germany since the early twentieth century.
This conference will focus on how Russian-speaking Jews in the late 20th–early 21st centuries have affected the cultures, politics, and economies of Israel, the United States, and Germany, as well as the "sending" countries of the FSU. Conferees will consider whether Russian-speaking Jewry constitutes "a global community," and how this recent migration challenges the larger concepts of identity and "diaspora" across geographic and national borders.
We are interested in papers from a range of disciplinary perspectives that address the history, evolution, and future of Russian-speaking Jewish communities, cultures, and identities. We encourage papers that move beyond the description of particular populations or institutions and introduce analyses of the problems, paradoxes, contradictions, and challenges involved in thinking about the Russian-speaking Jews.
The following themes are suggested as guides for the formulation of topics for paper proposals:
Globalization, Transnationalism, and Ethno-Cultural Diasporas in the 21st Century. How is our understanding of the migration of Soviet Jews in the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods enriched by theories of transnationalism, globalization, and diaspora studies? How can we introduce the study of Russian-speaking Jews into broader paradigms of academic analysis?
Political Behavior, Social Mobility, Commercial Activities, and Cultural Endeavors. Paper presenters will be asked to address the political behavior, social mobility, commercial activities, or cultural endeavors and impact of the émigrés. For example, is it true that the majority of Russian-speaking Jews in the United States has gravitated to conservative politics much more than other American Jews, and that in Israel they support right-of-center parties? If so, why? Can these trends be explained and analyzed in light of Soviet-era politics? How are the activities of Russian-speaking Jews who are engaged in business and technology affecting the economic landscape of their host country as well as their country of departure? We also encourage analyses of how the massive out-migration of Jews from the former Soviet Union has affected the family dynamics, cultural activities, and political thinking and behavior of those who stayed in the FSU.
Definitions of Jewishness. Definitions of Jewishness are a contentious issue. They have been complicated by the presence and experiences of Russian-speaking Jews outside of the FSU, many of whom are of only partial Jewish ancestry, most of whom are not religious, and few of whom are familiar with Judaism, Jewish culture, and Jewish history. In Israel, how have immigrants dealt with religious authorities who govern issues of marriage, conversion, and burial? How have Russian-speaking Jews in America related to the largely synagogue- and tradition-based model of Jewishness in the United States? What has been the role of Russian-speaking Jews in Germany, whose Jewish community has expanded exponentially? In a country which was responsible for the murder of about 2.5 million Soviet Jews in World War II, there are likely to be some profound ambivalences and uncertainties about rebuilding public Jewish life. What might these be, and what do they tell us about the future of Russian-speaking Jews there?
Cultural Expressions of Russian-Speaking Jews. How have the experiences of emigration and of settling in host countries shaped the forms of cultural expression produced by Russian-speaking Jews in film, music, art, and the performing arts? What new literary trends have emerged and what do they tell us about their writers and their target communities? What role has cultural memory played in the emergence of new forms of cultural expression? How do literature, music, and art produced outside the countries of the former Soviet Union by émigrés figure into the larger paradigms of contemporary Russian-language culture? In turn, how—if at all—does the world-wide availability of Russian-language culture produced in the countries of the former Soviet Union shape and influence cultural and literary trends abroad?
Media and Communications. Many forms of media—print, broadcast, and internet—play a role in defining identities across national borders, consolidating political opinion and forms of cultural expression, and maintaining connections between diasporic and non-diasporic Russian-speaking Jewish communities. In what languages do immigrants get news about Russia and the former Soviet Union? What role do media play in re-connecting younger immigrants with the language, culture, and current affairs of their home countries? What are the patterns of communication between émigrés and those who stayed, and how have such communications influenced Jewish life in the former Soviet Union?
Future of the Russian-Speaking Jewish Diaspora. Some have speculated on the longevity of the "Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora." Will the children of immigrants stop speaking Russian within a generation or two, as has happened in many previous immigrations? And if they do, will the Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora community cease to be a discrete entity, or will other cultural or ideological features continue to bind them to each other and to their home countries in the former Soviet Union?
Papers will be considered on any other themes relevant to the contemporary Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora. Note that the working language of the conference is English: all papers must be submitted and presented in English.
Submitting a Proposal
Junior and senior scholars in the humanities and social sciences, as well as others working in relevant areas, are eligible to apply, irrespective of citizenship or country of residence. Proposals should be submitted via the online application.
Submissions must include:
A completed online application form
A project abstract of approximately 250 words
A 2-page curriculum vitae (CV) listing education, publications, fellowships and awards, and recent work and teaching experience
The deadline for submitting proposals is May 14, 2010. All materials must be submitted in English. Decisions will be announced by July 1, 2010. Presenters must submit their final conference papers by September 1, 2011. Selected papers will be considered for publication in an edited volume.
Harvard University and cooperating funders will cover presenters' expenses for travel, lodging, and meals. A modest honorarium will also be provided (contingent on presenter's eligibility to receive payment).
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about submitting a proposal.
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