History, Jewish studies, Nationalism studies

Course date

5 July - 23 July, 1999
Application deadline
15 February, 1999
Course Director(s): 

Michael Silber

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Course Faculty: 

Israel Bartal

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Richard Cohen

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, Jerusalem, Israel

Jonathan Frankel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Judit Frigyesi

Bar-Ilan University, Department of Music, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Gyorgy Haraszti

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Hillel Kieval

George Washington University, Washington, D.C., United States of America

Andras Kovacs

Nationalism Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Victor Neumann

West University in Timisoara, Romania

The past few years have witnessed a remarkable revival of interest in nationalism. A field that was thought to be all but exhausted two decades ago, has become the focus of great intellectual ferment producing an impressive number of strikingly innovative studies and generating much theoretical debate. It is to this debate that we wish to bring the case-study of the Jews. What are the Jews? The nature of their collective identity-religious, racial, ethnic, national- has been the focus of much interest and intense debate during the last two centuries, up to our very day.

Over the years, Jews and non-Jews, scholars and laymen, have expressed a broad range of views, mostly unambiguous, on the subject. In this course we would like to re-examine the subject of Jewish collective identity and nationalism by turning to the historical record of the past two hundred years. In the spirit of current inquiry we would like to problematize many of the cherished notions not only of Jewish nationalists and their opponents, but also of various theories of nationalism. The Jews can serve as an ideal case-study to test the contrasting notions of such key theoreticians as Hobsbawm, Gellner, Anderson, Armstrong and Smith in the eighties, as well the newer crop of scholars of the nineties. Hopefully, there will emerge from the course a better understanding not only of Jewish history, but also of nationalism.

Because the course will re-examine the course of Jewish history during the last two centuries from the vantage point of one specific problematique, it will be assumed that even those who are well acquainted with the modern Jewish history or the history of the Jews in their own region, will find much of the material new. Thus the course hopes to satisfy both the advanced student of Jewish history as well as the scholar who is just making his acquaintance with the subject.

The course will be conducted primarily as a series of advanced lectures on a graduate level, but with considerable time set aside for reading primary sources and discussion. Several sessions will be set aside for students' workshops where papers on the theme of the course will be presented and discussed. Students will be encouraged to prepare in advance such papers and applicants for the course should mention their proposed presentations in the application.

There will be intensive reading for the course and students are expected to come prepared for the classes. An extensive reader will be prepared that will also contain further recommended readings.