Session Submission Summary

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Methodological Boundaries and the Field of Rabbinics: Interruptions from Philosophy**

Sun, December 17, 12:45 to 2:15pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Eastern Market Room

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Note: This is a "flipped panel," in which the papers are posted online on the AJS Website in advance of the conference, and audience members read the papers in advance. Panelists' presentations at the conference focus on key questions or problems in their papers, and engaging in back-and-forth discussion with audience members and other panelists about their work.

This “flipped” panel will be a conversation whose goal is to make explicit our methodologies for studying rabbinic texts. We will articulate the disciplinary boundaries of the field of rabbinics, and ask to what extent we see ourselves as working within such boundaries, yet also feel constrained and challenged by them. We launch this discussion in the hope of expanding the “rules” of the field. Among the “neighboring” disciplines that we see as relevant to this process, this session will focus on the fields of Philosophy or Theory. Thus, this session brings together six scholars of rabbinics—Julia Watts Belser (Georgetown University), Chaya Halberstam (Western University Canada), Lynn Kaye (Ohio State University), Marjorie Lehman (Jewish Theological Seminary), Rachel Neis (University of Michigan), and Mira Wasserman (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)—with two interlocutors representing the fields of modern Jewish thought and philosophy, Yonatan Y. Brafman (Jewish Theological Seminary) and Dana Hollander (McMaster University).

The rabbinicist participants will share among them annotated commentaries of rabbinic texts in the coming months (such as bBerakhot 17b-18a, yNiddah 3:2, 50c, and yKiddushin 1:7, 61b), before uploading them to the AJS website for all to read in advance of our session. The session will consist of a discussion of the ideas that our preliminary conversations engendered and of how our approaches provoked us to think about what emerges in the process of taking direction from fields such as posthumanism, feminist science studies, feminist legal studies, visual culture, gender theory, disability studies, queer theory, rhetoric, ethics and pedagogy. Brafman and Hollander will bring theoretical perspectives to bear on our methodological inquiry. Together we will think about how rabbinic texts may be conversation partners in our exploration of enduring philosophical-conceptual questions. What occurs when we let go of intellectual history or the history of concepts and ideas, and bring our own questions to the fore, in addition to—and sometimes even in place of—uncovering the concerns of the sages/editors of rabbinic texts? Can insights from philosophy/theory help break down the constraints we perceive? What do we think rabbinics should look like, and what are the first steps in fostering the changes we seek?

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