What can you say after you say that the world—or at least human life on it—looks like it's nearing its end? How about starting with wonder at the possibility that dialogue and subjectivity—the bases of human language—are possible now? In _Time and Human Language Now_ two lifelong friends share, in the form of a long-distance e-mail correspondence, a conversation about the relation between cosmos and consciousness, and about the possibility of being responsibly open toward the future without either despair or (...) unreasoning hope. The urgency that underlies this dialogue is the conviction that there can only be reason for hope if the members of homo sapiens can learn—soon—how vital and astonishing is the phenomenon of shared human presence through language. (shrink)
A Jewish introduction to the human sciences -- Responsive thinking: cultural studies and Jewish historiography -- Seasons and lifetimes -- Toward an anthropology of the twentieth century -- Tropes of home -- A moment of danger, a taste of death -- Extinction and difference.
As critics, a vital part of our task is to examine the ways in which language mystifies and reveals, serves and disserves human desires and aspirations. In that spirit we feel that engaging the leading Palestinian intellectual in the United States in a critical dialogue is a vital task. Although this reply takes issue with several points in Edward Said’s paper, “An Ideology of Difference” , our critique is intended as part of the struggle for increased mutual empathy. We in (...) no way wish to deny Said’s claims regarding the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations, nor the validity of Said and other Palestinian intellectuals’ efforts to counter the destructive military, political, and ideological forces that stand in the way of the Palestinians’ achievement and self-determination. Said’s critiques of the idea that Israel is somehow above criticism, and of the elimination of the Palestinians from “Western” discourse, are both valid.2We wish to make our own perspective clear at the start. We are both Jewish nationalists. We believe that it’s a good thing to be Jewish. We believe that those of Jewish heritage who fail to explore and re-create that heritage lose something of themselves. We think that Judaism still has a role to play in the healing of the world. By making this statement, we are not claiming that our views are identical,3 nor that they are the same from day to day, nor, a fortiori, that they are identical or even similar to those of many or most other people who would define themselves in that way. This, we note, touches on one of the aspects of Said’s paper of which we are most critical: The statements that he makes at several points, which seem to reify Zionists and Zionism into one model of theory and social practice, as well as his occlusion of the fact that other options for Jewish self-renewal were obviated by genocide or Soviet repression. 2. We are hardly alone among Jewish intellectuals in concurring with this point. Compare the recent comments by the American Jewish leader Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg:In memory of the Holocaust we have been reminded by you that silence is a sin. You have spoken out against indifference and injustice. Why are you making a special exception of Israel? Do you think that our silence will help Israel? The texts that we study and restudy teach the contrary. Daniel Boyarin is associate professor of midrash at Bar-Ilan University. His articles on midrash and theory have appeared in Poetics Today and Representations, and a monograph on the subject is forthcoming this year. Jonathan Boyarin is a fellow of the Max Weinreich Center at the VIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He edited and translated, with Jack Kugelmass, From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, and is currently completing an ethnography of Polish Jews in Paris. He is active in the International Jewish Peace Union. (shrink)
This symposium examines how various discursive frameworks inform Jewish and non-Jewish interpretations of Jewishness. Although the specific characteristics of these frameworks are context-dependent, the underlying themes remain the same: Jewish identification entails identifying “difference,” and this process of drawing distinctions between Jews and non-Jews gets developed in discursive frameworks of temporality, “race thinking,” nationalism, and genetics, among others. In the broader contexts within which Jewish identification is formulated, these frameworks serve to: delineate categories of people on the basis of socially (...) salient qualities associated with human and other bodies; evaluate these categorical “types” in regard to their determined “desirable” and “undesirable” qualities; implement institutionally sanctioned measures that facilitate the privileging of the people who apparently embody desired qualities; and enforce structural constraints within which people may choose to contest, re-inscribe, re-appropriate, and/or attempt to transform components of the other three networks mentioned above. It also emphasizes the significance of who mobilizes these discourses, with what objectives in mind, and how both factors instantiate discursive and discursively informed concretized outcomes. (shrink)