What’s New, What’s Next? Innovative Methods, New Sources, and Paradigm Shifts in Jewish Studies

What’s New, What’s Next? Innovative Methods, New Sources, and Paradigm Shifts in Jewish Studies

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Museum of the History of Polish Jews, ul. Mordechaja Anielewicza 6; 00-157 Warszawa; Poland
Vom - Bis
12.10.2020 - 15.10.2020
Stephan Stach, Dział Naukowy / Wissenschaftliche Abteilung, POLIN Muzeum Historii Żydow Polskich / POLIN Museum der Geschichte der polnischen Juden

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews invites panel and poster proposals for "What’s New, What’s Next? Innovative Methods, New Sources, and Paradigm Shifts in Jewish Studies,"an interdisciplinary conference that explores new directions in the study of East and Central European Jews.

At the heart of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a multimedia narrative exhibition that draws upon the best recent scholarship in a broad range of disciplines. Scholars in Poland, Israel, and North America collaborated on the creation of an open historical narrative that begins in the 10th century and comes forward to the present.

The exhibition raises many of the methodological and theoretical issues central to Jewish studies today and serves as the inspiration for "What’s New, What’s Next? Innovative Methods, New Sources, and Paradigm Shifts in Jewish Studies".

What constitutes Jewish studies today and in which direction should we be heading? Which paradigms are guiding the field today? How are theoretical and methodological developments in the humanities and social sciences shaping Jewish studies? How are scholars working in a broad range of disciplines – history, social sciences, literature, visual and performing arts, and other disciplines – contributing to the field? What are interdisciplinary approaches contributing to the field? What is the impact of studies of Jewish life in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on a wider understanding of world history?

Core presentations:

- Francois Guesnet, "The beauty of small differences: about Jewish studies and Jewish area studies"
- Havi Dreifuss, "Beyond traditional methods"
- Marcin Wodziński, "What’s Next? Prospects and challenges".

Academic Committee:

- Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator, POLIN Museum Core Exhibition, Academic Committee Chair ;
- Prof. Antony Polonsky, POLIN Museum;
- Dr. Michał Trębacz, POLIN Museum;
- Dr. hab. Artur Markowski, POLIN Museum, Conference Convener;
- Prof. Andrzej Żbikowski, Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute;
- Dr. Enrico Lucca, Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture–Simon Dubnow;
- Prof. Hubert Strouk, Mémorial de la Shoah;
- Prof. Genevieve Zubrzycki, University of Michigan;
- Dr. Scott Ury, The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University;
- Prof. Dan Michman, Yad Vashem;
- Prof. Jonathan Brent, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research;
- Dr. Lisa M. Leff, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;
- Dr. François Guesnet, University College London.

We invite panel proposals in the following areas:

1. Theory in Jewish studies

- What is the potential relevance of new theoretical directions in the humanities and social sciences to specific research problems in Jewish studies?
- How has work in Jewish studies contributed to theoretical developments in the humanities and social sciences more generally?

2. Paradigms, methodologies, and sources in Jewish studies

- Which methodologies are Jewish studies scholars using, how, and to what effect? To what extent and in what ways are Jewish studies scholars creating new methodologies? Which other methodologies in the humanities and social sciences might productively be applied in Jewish studies?
- Which new sources are being explored in Jewish studies? Which kinds of sources have been neglected by researchers and what is their potential?
- Where are the paradigm shifts in Jewish studies and how might they be accounted for?
- How might a wider range of disciplines and greater degree of interdisciplinarity enrich Jewish studies? What potential might comparative approaches hold?

3. Problematics, emphases, and lacunae

- What are the key questions that currently dominate the study of East and Central European Jews? What accounts for those emphases? What questions remain to be asked and how might they reshape the field?
- How has the emphasis on the modern period and especially the 20th century shaped Jewish studies more generally? To what extent has this emphasis overshadowed the study of earlier periods? What are the critical questions for scholars of the medieval and early modern periods, as well as for scholars of the long 19th century, and how might greater attention to those periods shape the study of East and Central European Jews in the modern period? We strongly encourage panel proposals on the earlier periods.
- How have the disciplinary emphases in Jewish studies, especially history and literature, shaped the field? How might scholars working in art and architectural history, museology, musicology, linguistics, philosophy, religious thought, anthropology, sociology, social psychology, and performance studies, among other fields, contribute to Jewish studies? How might cross-disciplinary and comparative work strengthen Jewish studies?We strongly encourage panel proposals that represent a broad range of disciplines.
- How might attention to the history of the field, its problematics, emphases, and lacunae reveal new opportunities for Jewish studies? How might a comparison of the development of the field in Israel, North America, and Europe reveal potential for collaboration?

4. Advantages and disadvantages of the digital revolution

- In what ways are new technologies revolutionizing Jewish studies?
How are large databases of archival documents, photographs, objects, and press, coupled with more sophisticated search tools, changing the way scholars work and Jewish studies as a field?
- What are the challenges in creating and managing these large databases and how might obstacles to institutional collaboration be overcome?
- How is such easy access to such vast resources changing Jewish studies? What more could new technologies bring to Jewish studies in the future?

We encourage a critical analysis of the potential and threats posed by the digital humanities, rather than simply a presentation of digital resources as such.

5. Ethics and politics

- Does Jewish studies possess its own code of ethics?
- Do the field and those working in it have a social responsibility?
- How are scholars affected by contemporary concerns, whether contested histories, conflicted memory, or historical policy, among others?
- How are scholars and their work implicated in wider debates?
- How do they respond to pressure from various quarters?
- What is the impact, actual and potential, of Jewish studies on the contexts within which scholars are working?

6.Role of cultural institutions

- What is the role of museums, memorials, and cultural centers in the development and popularization of Jewish studies?
- What is their relationship to universities and research institutes, libraries, and archives?
- Are museums complementary or do they partially take over the functions of academic institutions, especially in places where the study of East and Central European Jews is not well established?
- To what extent is the democratization of knowledge of the Jewish past and culture a threat or an opportunity for Jewish studies?
- How have Jewish studies scholars benefitted from the experience of collaborating with museums?

7. Legacies

As a result of the Holocaust, the large and vibrant Jewish communities of East and Central Europe were decimated. The legacy of the world they created lives on both in Europe, where there is a renewal of Jewish life on a small scale, and in the many places in the world where millions of Jews made their home both before and after the Holocaust.

- What is the status of research into these communities and their relationship to their former places of residence?
- How, where, and why do these communities engage with the legacy of the civilization created by East and Central European Jews?
- What is the role of museums, memorialization, heritage tourism, and other forms of cultural production?
- What might a comparative study of these communities in North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Israel, and other parts of Europe yield?


- Each panel should consist of three 20-minute papers. The conference Academic Committee will assign panel chairs and discussants.
- The panel proposal should include an abstract (150 words) for the panel as a whole, the name and affiliation of each panelist, and the title and abstract (150 words) for each paper.
- Panels should be thematically coherent.
- Panel proposals must be in English.
- The organizers will cover accommodation for panelists. A limited number of travel grants are available (for more information see our homepage). Speakers will have full access to the conference without charge.
- Deadline: proposals must be submitted electronically by April 30, 2020.
Acceptance will be announced by June 30, 2020.

Panel proposals have to be submitted through the online form:


We also invite PhD students working on dissertations related to East and Central European Jewish History and Culture to participate in a poster session.

Posters should focus on methodological, theoretical, and source-related issues relevant to the dissertation. The poster session will offer students an opportunity to discuss their work with conference participants and to receive constructive feedback.


- Each student may submit only one poster, and each poster must be authored by one person.
- Those whose posters are accepted must come to Warsaw to present and discuss their posters. They will be able to participate in the entire conference free of charge. The organizers are also offering a limited number of travel grants. See travel and accommodation grants for PhD candidates below.


- The poster must address methodological, theoretical, and source-related issues relevant to the dissertation.
- The poster must be in English.
- Posters must be delivered as a PDF file ready to print in A3 format. POLIN Museum will print the files and mount them for display.
- Printed posters may be supplemented with a digital poster. It is the responsibility of the student to provide a laptop or tablet for presenting the digital poster.

Poster proposals have to be submitted through the online form:


The conference is organized by:

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

in cooperation with:

- The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
- The Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow, Leipzig
- Mémorial de la Shoah, Musée et centre de documentation, Paris
- M|LSA Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel-Aviv University
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York
- The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.
- UCL, London

The conference ist organized within the Global Education Outreach Program.

The conference is supported by Taube Philanthropies, the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.

Conference patrons: American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, European Association for Jewish Studies, Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University, Mordechai Anielewicz Center for Research and Teaching of the History and Culture of Jews in Poland, Institute of History, University of Warsaw, SEFER Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, Polish Association of Judaic Studies, Polish Association of Yiddish Studies, Taube Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław.