Contraversions: Jews and Other Differences

Daniel Boyarin, Chana Kronfeld, Naomi Seidman, series editors

The nascent interdisciplinary field of Jewish cultural studies and critical theory does not feed the nostalgia Jewishness of “discovering our roots” nor does it preside over the philological funerals for Judaism of positivist text scholarship. Instead, it fosters a probing, critical engagement with the many trends of contemporary critical theory. Above all, it resists the type of scholarship that studies and encourages only similar types of scholarship, and it recuperates those strands in Jewish thought which nurture diversity, progress, and sympathy with political and cultural otherness.

The series intends to mobilize the sharpest critical tools and the most nuanced theoretical articulations to investigate Jewish linguistic, literary, and sociocultural practices. Despite the continuing need for linguistic expertise and the abiding validity of rigorous disciplinary methodologies, the life-blood of the new direction in Jewish studies is in the transgression of traditional disciplinary boundaries and the clamor of contention. In turn, the special marginal positioning of Jewish culture will enable a systematic reevaluation and refinement of general theoretical models of text and of culture. The critical investigation of Jewish cultural/textual materials tends to disrupt the Eurocentric model of a literature, culture, or society as congruent with the territorial borders of a discrete nation-state, a model upon which both traditional and much postmodernist ethnography and literary historiography have been based.

At the same time, this new critical engagement needs to be directed inward, to protect against self-righteously embracing a privileged sense of Jewish difference, or promoting “the Jew” as either supreme victim or the very embodiment of rational, non-oppressive freedom. We need more rigorous, innovative research on the marginalization within, from the historical subordination of Jewish women and their exclusion from textual study, to the omission of gay and lesbian experience from the Jewish cultural narrative, to the devaluation, indeed erasure, of the rich and complex Middle Eastern formations of Jewish culture.

The series will consist of four types of book: first, innovative single-author works on Jewish cultural materials within one or more rigorous theoretical frameworks; second, works of collective authorship that make a new contribution to the field; third, translations of new cultural/critical work done in Europe and Israel; fourth, original work that transgresses traditional genres of scholarly discourse, including the distinction between creative and critical writing. For all four types of project, Contraversions encourages those versions of Jewish literary, cultural, and social inquiry which contravene the scholarly status quo and free up a new discursive space for Jews and other differences.

This series is closed.

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