What development in Jewish studies over the last twenty years has most excited you?

Galit Hasan-Rokem

Hebrew University

In the last twenty years, Jewish studies has experienced if not a total "ethnographic turn," then at least a serious leaning towards the ethnographic aspects of Jewish culture. This includes both historical and contemporary studies. Among the areas that have consequently come into focus are the home, the family, and everyday life, in contrast to the earlier emphasis on the public sphere, institutional activities, and holidays. Feminist theory and practice have significantly illuminated the areas of women's lives and subjective experience that had either been silenced or simply forgotten, and have—as in the study of culture in general—enabled and stimulated research into various forms of "otherness." As a consequence of the ethnographic as well as the feminist turns, interest in materiality and the human body, including sexuality in its richness and variations, has gained momentum.

Methodologically, these developments have led to the application of research methods developed in the study of contemporary Jewish cultures to scholarship on Jewish lives, cultures, and texts of the past. The weakening of apologetic tendencies has enabled deeper research into the coproduction of culture between ethnic entities rather than within them, thus producing important research about how Jewish culture enriched other cultures, but also how much of Jewish culture is a result of dialogic relations with its concrete habitus or Lebenswelt. In general the concept of "influence" ("Jewish influence on European culture," "Muslim influence on Jewish rituals," etc.) has been fruitfully reconceptualized as a variety of more refined cultural processes and mechanisms. Most of all, this period has produced theories of Jewish culture that do not focus on Judaism as such but rather on the multiplicity and variation of Jewish cultures, creativities, suffering, learning, and lives.