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Queer Jewish Studies: The State of the Field

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


This dynamic and interdisciplinary roundtable will bring together scholars working at the nexus of Queer Studies and Jewish studies from a diverse and exciting range of sub-fields in order to answer questions about this burgeoning field, such as: “What is the place of queerness/Queer Studies within Jewish Studies in general and at AJS in particular?” “How can Jewish and Queer/Trans/Feminist Studies benefit from conversing more, and what are some obstacles to this dialogue?” and, “What are the implications for the body in this discussion?” The roundtable will be chaired by Gwynn Kessler (Swarthmore College), expert in gender studies and rabbinics. Kessler and the participants, Jonathan Branfman, S. J. Crasnow, Hannah Kosstrin, and Max Strassfeld, will address these questions and discuss their cutting-edge scholarship in the field.

Each of the participants brings a unique perspective to this conversation. Kosstrin’s work focuses on how examining Jewish and Israeli queerness through dancing bodies impacts Jewish gender studies, so she incorporates an international viewpoint while also addressing elements of both art and embodiment. Strassfeld works in Transgender Studies and Rabbinics. He is interested in questions of how trans* and queer theory can defamiliarize rabbinic logics and provide new insights into Late Antique texts. Crasnow focuses on the relationship between contemporary queer/trans Jews and mainstream, normative Jewish institutions and Jewish life. They are also interested in the innovations of queer/trans Jews to Judaism, and engage queer/trans theory in order to explore the power and potential of queer/trans Jewish life. Branfman addresses feminist/queer pedagogy. Drawing on his experience in a feminist studies doctoral program, he explores the challenges that often prevent this field from acknowledging anti-Semitism or Jewishness as a form of difference and lays out strategies for overcoming these challenges. Taken together, the panelists’ discussion will suggest directions for queer interventions to further Jewish studies investigations, and will demonstrate the importance of including queer studies in the larger Jewish studies research and pedagogy narrative.

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