Jewish consumption and material culture in the early modern period

Call to advanced graduate students to participate in a workshop   “Jewish Consumption and Material Culture in the Early Modern Period”
Location:     Connecticut, United States

Advanced Graduate students are invited to apply to participate in the fourth annual Early Modern Workshop in Jewish History, tentatively entitled “Jewish Consumption and Material Culture in the Early Modern Period,” which will take place at the University of Maryland at College Park beginning on the evening of Sunday, August 19, 2007 and will conclude on Tuesday evening on August 22, 2006.
The topic of material culture within Jewish historiography has only been explored in the context of ancient Jewish history.
Unlike early modern European history, or early American history, both of which have been studied from the perspective of material culture and consumption, Jewish history has been predominantly based on texts.  Scholars of early modern Jewish history have tended to see the minhagim (customs) and responsa literatures as a particularly valuable source of
information about daily life, but have tended to focus on specific data rather than to explore the significance of Jewish material culture. There are of course well known sources such as memoirs (see the recently published edition of Gluckel of Hameln’s memoir by Chava Turniansky), travel accounts, and the “ethnographic” descriptions of non-Jewish observers such as the Buxtorfs  (father and son) and converts from Judaism such as Samuel Nahmias (Giulio Morosini, Via della Fede). It is only recently that questions of the transformation of Jewish culture through consumption and material  culture have been raised, by scholars such as  Elliott Horowitz, Zeev Gris,  Shifra Baruchson, Shalom Sabar, or in art history Vivian Mann and Richard Cohen.    
 This workshop intends to open up a new venue for  inquiry in this field and, in the process, foster links between historians   and museums and their curators. The types of questions we might address in the 2007 workshop include:
-Is there a specifically Jewish material culture? Are there specifically Jewish patterns of consumption?
-How do objects of Jewish daily life (housing, clothing, food, ritual objects) compare to similar categories of objects in non-Jewish daily life?
– Do objects of consumption serve as indications of Jewish social status both within the community and vis-a-vis the outside? What do material possessions and consumption tell about social and personal values at different strata of society?
 – Did Jews intentionally seek to distinguish themselves from non-Jews through consumption and material objects? To what extent can the material objects and patterns of consumption be seen as markers of acculturation? Qualified advanced graduate students should send a short description of their dissertation project and a CV. The small grant will cover participation, accommodation, and meals. Deadline June 15, 2007.

For more information contact Magda Teter at Wesleyan University at
Magda Teter
Department of History
Wesleyan University
 313 PAC Middletown, CT 06459
   phone 860-685-5356
   fax 860-685-2078
   Visit the website at

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Filed under call for papers, history, workshop

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