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Call for Papers

Jews in a Multi-Ethnic Network
Deadline May 31 2004
For an international conference organized by the German-Israeli
Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, Bucerius Institute
for Research of Contemporary German History and Society, University of
Haifa, Chair for Jewish Studies, University of Erfurt, Chair for Jewish
History and Culture, University of Munich.
To be held at the University of Haifa
19th-20th December 2004

One of the methodological developments that have occurred in the second
half of the twentieth century in the historiography of inter-ethnic
relations in modern Eastern and Central Europe involves historians’
tendency to increasingly need the theoretical tools offered by those
social sciences that deal with the study of ethnic groups and identity.
In this context, the reference is first and foremost to two ancillary
areas, viz. ethnic studies and cultural studies. On the one hand, under
the influence of ethnic studies, many historians have gained an
understanding of ethnic awareness not as a product of external forces –
socio-economic, political or linguistic – but rather as an independent
factor or element in its own right. Against this background, the “ethnic
group” is perceived as a basic category of social affiliation with roots
which are deeply implanted in human history. In the spirit of the
primordialist school of ethnic studies, many historians presuppose the
objective existence of ethnic groups as hermetic entities characterized
by relative internal homogeneity in all matters relating to their
supposed members’ awareness. On the other hand, the constructivist
approaches of cultural and identity studies have increased historians’
awareness as to the possibility of the existence of complex identities,
along the lines of hybrid or “hyphenated” identities which run counter to
the logic of ethnic uniformity or unity.
The tension between the ethnic-primordialist view and its
cultural-constructivist counterpart – a tension which has largely
remained unresolved in the social sciences that study identities – has
carried over to historical research also. In light of this tension,
social scientists and historians alike are confronted by a thorny
challenge, involving the need not to apply unifying ethno-centric terms
to multi-ethnic and multicultural identities and affinities. Such a
challenge, together with the difficulties related to dealing with it, are
strikingly revealed in the historiography of inter-ethnic relations
between Jews and their multi-ethnic surroundings in Eastern and Central
Europe in the era of modern nationalism. On the one hand, under the
influence of the ethnic-primordialist approach, historians tend to
increasingly emphasize the aspect of the continuity of particular ethnic
identities, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. On the other hand, in light of
the cultural-constructivist perspective, researchers are simultaneously
discovering a whole range of diverse “jigsaw” or mosaic identities, such
as “German-Jewish”, “Polish-Jewish”, “Czech-Jewish” and so on. The
primordialist-constructivist tension persists, together with the
temptation to solve it by shifting the emphasis from the complexity of
multi-ethnic identities in the direction of their particular ethnic
components, including endorsing simplistic dichotomous paradigms of
“Jews” versus “others”.
The present research project, which is the outcome of scientific
cooperation between the universities of Erfurt, Haifa and Munich, under
the auspices of the German-Israel Foundation, seeks to investigate the
issue of inter-ethnic relations in modern Eastern and Central Europe by
examining inter-ethnic meeting points in social life and day-to-day
existence. We aspire, therefore, to avoid the obstacle of the
primordialist-constructivist tension by focusing special attention on the
“seam lines” or boundaries between various ethnic groups and cultures. In
so doing, we adopt two basic perspectives – micro-historical and
macro-historical, each of which combines both a theoretical and an
empirical stage. To date we have focused on the micro-historical
examination in studying the Czech-German-Jewish triangle in the Czech
lands in the 1880-1938 period, looking at the following three issues:
(1) Ethnicity: Neighbors and Strangers in a Multi-Ethnic Environment; (2)
Intimacy: Intermarriage as Encounter and Estrangement; (3) Sociability:
The Resort as a Place of Inclusion and Exclusion.
The macro-historical study of multi-ethnic Eastern and Central Europe,
which will take place in the framework of the forthcoming conference on
“Jews in a Multi-Ethnic Network”, to be held at Haifa University in
December 2004, is intended to encourage a multi-disciplinary approach and
expand the theoretical dimension of ethnic studies, as well as to
establish a comparative framework for examining interactional and
inter-ethnic patterns. We are pleased to announce this call for papers
and invite members of the research community of all disciplines of the
social sciences and humanities to present their research at this upcoming
conference. Geographically speaking, papers should focus on multi-ethnic
areas of Europe, and should be limited to the chronological framework of
the 19th and 20th centuries. In light of our special interest in
facilitating an encounter between the new theoretical approaches and
specific historical analyses, we welcome both theoretical research and
case studies.

Please send abstracts (of maximally 500 words) until the end of May 2004 to:
 Dimitry Shumsky at [log in to unmask]

Dr. Yfaat Weiss         Prof. Andreas Gotzmann                       Prof.
Michael Brenner
University of Haifa     University of Erfurt            University of Munich

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Karen Eng
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