June 13 – 14, 2017
Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar, University of Zurich
Challenging Judaica Objects:
The Ambiguity of Jewish Material Culture
The heterogeneity of Jewish communities through time and space is mirrored by the equally heterogeneous appearance of their religion-related material culture. This is due to the entanglements and interactions of Jewish with regional cultures, of context-specific religious content with general art and aesthetics, and to the varieties of Jewish life and customs in different socio-political settings. Jewish religious material culture thus not only reflects internal Jewish perspectives, but also the coexistence of Jews with people from various backgrounds; furthermore, it may reflect tension and rupture among various factions within the community as well as of Jewish communities vis-à-vis surrounding societies. This conference will focus on Judaica, i.e. objects required for Jewish religious practice. It will cover the period from the Middle Ages until the present, post-modern times and deal with Jewish material cultural expressions in a variety of non-Jewish societies. Since Judaica are multi-dimensional objects, the conference aims to reveal and discuss their inherent challenges and ambiguities. Judaica have to be interpreted not only as vehicles of religious significance but also as media of transcultural, transsocial, economic, historical, and political meaning.