The Chicago Center for Jewish Studies invites paper proposals for a conference entitled “Borders in Jewish Thought,” to take place February 13, 2012 at the University of Chicago. Keynote addresses will be given by Professor Israel Yuval (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Professor Rachel Havrelock (University of Illinois, Chicago).
The conference will explore the ways in which Jews have invoked the borders of the Land of Israel as a malleable metaphor for considering a variety of issues that extend beyond geography. The Hebrew Bible presents several border schemes of the Land of Israel: some extend from the Nile to the Euphrates, while others are limited to the land of Canaan hemmed in by the Jordan; some emphasize natural boundaries while others delineate the borders according to ritual logic. Each scheme represents a different conception of the sanctity of space and the way divine favor is mapped onto the physical landscape. Thus, in biblical references to natural and political borders the landscape becomes a powerful metaphor for defining and upholding cultural and hermeneutical boundaries.
Subsequently, Jews from antiquity to the present day have continued to use the borders of Israel as a broad interpretive category for thinking about a variety of religious, social, and political concerns. Even in their earliest formulations, the borders were not merely geographic markers, but a means of providing spatial representations for discourses of power, legitimization and communal identity with respect to real or imagined neighbors.
The goal of this conference is to look at ways in which thinkers – such as Jewish pilgrims, sectarians, settlers, soldiers, poets, artists, politicians, philosophers, and exegetes – have invoked geographical language to articulate a wide spectrum of concerns. We welcome papers that explore the cultural, social, and political questions that thinkers both in or outside the Land of Israel have addressed through the language of borders.
Proposals may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
• How do the borders of Israel provide a symbol for other kinds of boundaries?
• How are the borders of the Land of Israel represented in the Bible, and how have exegetes, archaeologists, and historians explained these passages?
• How are borders used as polemical and discursive techniques in encounters with the ‘Other’?
• What kinds of borders preoccupy Jewish thinkers—linguistic, social, geographic, religious etc.—and how do they grapple with them? What other kinds of boundaries—such as separation walls, urban confinements, ritual distinctions—have been interpreted through the concept of borders?
• Is there a fundamental difference between “natural” and “dogmatic” borders?
• How do borders figure in discourses of pilgrimage, exile and return? How do pilgrims, soldiers, and others record their experience of and relationship to the borders and the inside/outside of the land?
Please send abstracts of under 250 words for 20 minute papers to Jessica Andruss (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Uri Shachar (email@example.com) by October 9, 2011. Small stipends may be available to offset the cost of travel.
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