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About

The theme of our initiative, the “other within,” highlights the place of Jews as a minority and of minorities among the Jews, especially in modern secular contexts.

Spring 2013 Course Offering:
The Modern Jew
with Prof. Michael Zank is offered under RN339/RN639/STHTX828, and meets T/R 11-12:30.

The core of our initiative is a series of three new courses. The first course, “The Modern Jew” was co-taught by Abigail Gillman (MLCL) and Michael Zank (RN) in Spring 2011; the second course, “The Heretical Jew,” taught by Abigail Gillman and Adam Seligman (RN/CURA), was offered for Fall 2011. The third course, “The Jewish Political Tradition” (offered under “Topics in Judaic Studies,” RN 499/RN 799) is in its trial run this semester and is taught by Nahshon Perez, Schusterman Visiting Assistant Professor of Israel Studies.

The problem of “the other,” and the relation of deviance and heterodoxy to normative order, is a theme of increasing interest in many areas of scholarship, from literature and anthropology to sociology, history and even philosophy. Indeed, this interest in difference characterizes, to no small extent, the whole trajectory of post-modern scholarship.

It does not take much imagination to recognize that to some extent the Muslim in today’s Europe is taking the place occupied by the Jew in the early modern period (if not before as well), indeed, of the Jew’s role in European history tout court until the Second World War.  The fear of and fascination with the other; the highly ambivalent relation to the female other; and the positing of this community as not fully part of the overall social formation, all characterize contemporary attitudes towards Muslims as they once did (and to some extent still do) to the Jews.

However, the fact that the Jew to a large extent no longer occupies the role of the (Christian) other in Europe, and to some extent in the United States as well, provokes us to visualize the theme of otherness in a different way.  Rather than look at the Jew as other, we wish to explore the Jewish other – the other of the other, as it were.

We are interested in uncovering representations of otherness internal to Jewish history.  We feel that this is a critical pedagogic move both for Jewish and non-Jewish students.  Most remain comfortable within existing perspectives of the Jew as other (often understood as the Jew as victim, or as the victim who has achieved retribution); the Other Within courses encourage students, colleagues, and eventually the community at large to adopt a different perspective on Jewish culture.  Our pedagogical goal is therefore to add a new idiom to our understanding of one of the prime markers of secularism (i.e. as pluralism) within Jewish civilization, one that will deepen our appreciation of its depths and subtleties.

For more on our courses, please see HERE.

The Other Within, a BU faculty initiative, is supported by a grant from the Posen Foundation and administered by the Department of Religion, College of Arts and Sciences.