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Hasidism in Light of Postcolonial and Diaspora Theory

Sun, December 18, 10:00 to 11:30am, Sheraton Boston Hampton 3rd Floor (AV)

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hasidic Jews emerged as “modern” in a manner akin to many other colonized and Diasporic groups: by opposing state “civilizing” initiatives and by asserting alternative, self-empowering practices and discourses. In postwar North America and Israel, Hasidic Jews have confronted new freedoms and challenges, and have employed new strategies to pursue their distinct ways of life in their new places of belonging. The current panel seeks to read these developments through the lens of postcolonial and Diaspora thought. In prewar Poland, Glenn Dynner argues, Hasidism behaved more like a diasporic "culture of resistance" (Stuart Hall's term). In the postwar context, many of those practices were continued and reified. However, Rachel Feldman shows how movements like Chabad began to follow a more colonialist logic, particularly in the Global South; while Jessica Roda demonstrates that contemporary Hasidic (and non-Hasidic) ultraorthodox women artists and influencers echo post-colonialist forms of feminism, particularly in the cyber-sphere. Each of these papers illustrates how a study of Hasidism can both inform and be informed by new modes of critical inquiry.

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