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Jewishness and the Human Dimension

Jonathan Boyarin

Publication Year: 2008

Jewishness and the Human Dimension is a leading scholar's progress report on an effort to bring Jewishness broadly construed into dialogue with a wide range of thought in contemporary criticism, while linking those themes in turn to the question of planetary crisis.Each chapter emerges from and addresses the circumstances of its composition; a talk to New Jersey undergraduates inviting them to contemplate their lifespans vis--vis the life history of the species; a meeting to contemplate Jewish memory outside Europe and after 1945; an inaugural address as the author sought to make sense of leaving his home on the Lower East Side and making a new one in Kansas. Two chapters on research and teaching in Jewish cultural studies as academic practice develop the notion of Jewish studies as a human science and examine how Jewish historiography, once a deeply conservative discipline, has integrated insights from anthropology and literary cultural studies. Boyarin also shares a dialogue withthe Jerusalem-based physicist Martin Land on physical and cultural ideas of futurity and redemption. The book ends with a stark challenge to those who work in the contemporary humanities and social sciences: in order to be able to contribute to the possibility of sustained human life on Earth, we need to interrogate rigorously now the status of human differences. Neither ethnography (though it relishes the particular), memoir (though a personal voice is readily audible), nor criticism (though the work and figures of Jacques Derrida and especially Walter Benjamin are indispensable to its project), this book attempts to put in place words of the late Moishe Fogel, vice president of the Eighth Street Shul, that have long stood as a watchword for the author's writing: Everything what you know you gotta use!

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Introduction: The Human Dimensionand the Life / Study System

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pp. 1-7

What are the two terms in the title of this book? ‘‘Jewishness,’’ though perhaps unfamiliar, presents no problems; roughly, I mean by it all associations that gather around the substantive ‘‘Jew’’ or ‘‘Jews’’ and around the modifier ‘‘Jewish.’’ But what do...

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1. A Jewish Introduction to the Human Sciences

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pp. 8-24

Some years ago—at a time when I was not yet a professor and did not know whether I ever would become one—I was nevertheless invited to participate as an outside consultant in the end-of-year deliberations of the Jewish studies committee at a certain fine liberal- arts college in the Northeast. Along with the other visitors, I...

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2. Responsive Thinking: Cultural Studies and Jewish Historiography

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pp. 25-44

This is a short story about the troubled romance between the master discipline of Jewish history (perhaps more subaltern than it has seemed from my particular perspective) and the wayward, unpredictable, ‘‘undisciplined’’ hybrid known as cultural studies. Two caveats before I begin the tale. The first is that the works...

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3 Seasons and Lifetimes

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pp. 45-59

For the next half-hour or so, I will be speaking of things that matter to all of us but, ultimately, that none of us really understands very well. My theme throughout these few reflections is this: at every stage, everyone’s career is embedded, try as we might to...

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4. Toward an Anthropology of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 60-73

When Leslie Morris so generously invited me to speak at this conference, I almost instantaneously provided her with the tentative title ‘‘Toward an Anthropology of the Twentieth Century.’’ Of course, the twentieth century remains an awkward designation. It...

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5. Tropes of Home

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pp. 74-88

For more than a quarter-century, until just a couple of months ago, I was privileged to call ‘‘home,’’ with a comforting lack of self-consciousness and an equally comforting sense of free choice, that place in America that, for its Jews at least, counts more than...

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6. A Moment of Danger, a Taste of Death

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pp. 89-114

Meir Katz kindly asked me to write an article for a special issue of the Cardozo Law Review devoted to Walter Benjamin and the law. I decided to take the opportunity to resume my attempt, fruitless so far, to articulate the difficulty we have of imagining the future...

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7. Extinction and Difference

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pp. 115-133

I want to begin by explaining why I have chosen to take on here such a large and seemingly nebulous theme as ‘‘Extinction and Difference.’’ You might hear in the title echoes of Derrida’s famous title,...

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Epilogue

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pp. 134-136

On my bookshelf, as yet unopened, lies a volume by James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century....

Notes

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pp. 137-144


E-ISBN-13: 9780823248056
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823229222
Print-ISBN-10: 082322922X

Page Count: 180
Publication Year: 2008

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Subject Headings

  • Judaism and science.
  • Judaism and the social sciences.
  • Jews -- Historiography.
  • Human ecology -- Religious aspects -- Judaism.
  • Judaism and culture.
  • Jews -- Identity.
  • Globalization.
  • Difference (Philosophy).
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