Jewish Studies: A Theoretical Introduction

Jewish Studies: A Theoretical Introduction

Jewish Studies: A Theoretical Introduction

Jewish Studies: A Theoretical Introduction


Jewish Studies, the first volume in a groundbreaking new series, Key Words in Jewish Studies, introduces the basic approach of the series by organizing discussion around key concepts in the field that have emerged over the last two centuries: history and science, race and religion, self and community, identity and memory. The book is oriented by contemporary critical theory, especially feminist and postcolonial studies, and the multidisciplinary approaches of cultural studies.

By looking backward and forward--and across continents and disciplines--to unearth the evolution of the scholarly study of Jews, Andrew Bush provides a comprehensive introduction to the development of Jewish studies from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present. In the course of engaging scholarship on periods from the classical to the contemporary and from the disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and literary studies, Bush questions male-dominated and Ashkenazi-centric visions of the field. He concludes with an experimental exposition of a new Jewish studies for a time where attention to difference has overtaken the security of canons and commonalities.


The Rutgers University Press series Key Words in Jewish Studies seeks to introduce students and scholars alike to vigorous developments in the field by exploring its terms. These words and phrases reference important concepts, issues, practices, events, and circumstances. But terms also refer to standards, even to preconditions; they patrol the boundaries of the field of Jewish Studies. This series aims to transform outsiders into insiders and let insiders gain new perspectives on usages, some of which shift even as we apply them.

Key words mutate through repetition, suppression, amplification, and competitive sharing. Jewish Studies finds itself attending to such processes in the context of an academic milieu where terms are frequently repurposed. Diaspora offers an example of an ancient word, one with a specific Jewish resonance, which has traveled into new regions and usage. Such terms migrate from the religious milieu of Jewish learning to the secular environment of universities, from Jewish community discussion to arenas of academic discourse, from political debates to intellectual arguments and back again. As these key words travel, they acquire additional meanings even as they occasionally shed longestablished connotations. On occasion, key words can become so politicized that they serve as accusations. the sociopolitical concept of assimilation, for example, when turned into a term—assimilationist— describing an advocate of the process among Jews, became an epithet hurled by political opponents struggling for the mantle of authority in Jewish communities.

When approached dispassionately, key words provide analytical leverage to expand debate in Jewish Studies. Some key words will be familiar from long use, and yet they may have gained new valences, attracting or repelling other terms in contemporary discussion. But there are prominent terms in Jewish culture whose key lies in a particular understanding of prior usage. Terms of the past may bolster claims to continuity in the present while newly minted language sometimes disguises deep connections reaching back into history. Attention must be paid as well to the transmigration of key words among Jewish languages—especially Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino—and among languages used by Jews, knitting connections even while highlighting distinctions.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.