CfP: “The Stuff of Jews: Political Economy and Jewish Material Culture, 1945 – Present”

Looking up into the cupola of the synagogue in Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia

Looking up into the cupola of the synagogue in Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia

We are pleased to forward this Call for Papers for what looks like will be a fascinating workshop/conference in March 2015 that will deal with many of the issues we focus on at Jewish Heritage Europe and which formed the basis of last year’s working seminar in Krakow on managing Jewish immovable heritage :


The Stuff of Jews: Political Economy and Jewish Material Culture, 1945 – Present

Berlin, Germany / 24 – 26 March 2015


Questions arose after 1945, and have persisted since, about the ownership of properties which had belonged to European Jewish communities before the war, to individuals murdered in the Holocaust, and even to some survivors. This included thousands of Jewish cemeteries in various states of repair and former synagogues, many of which already repurposed. Studies of these “Jewish” properties often examine their symbolic or nostalgic value, their place in active cultures of memory and identity construction. These properties, however, have always had worth as material assets as well, just as they have always imparted financial liabilities and other responsibilities to their owners. These factors, often determined by national contexts and cultures, conditioned the types of claims that various, competing actors made to “Jewish” properties, the outcomes of their conflicts, and even how owners and would-be owners understood their relationship and responsibilities to their properties. Local, national, and transnational political economies thus influenced the articulation and reception of the moral, political, and philosophical claims to the material legacy of European Jewry. A comparative study of these political economies offers an opportunity to re-explore larger themes in European Jewish history.

Papers may consider how economies of “Jewish” property have influenced Jewish-state relations in Europe and the relationships between Jews and non-Jewish majorities. They may explore attempts to resolve the ownership of “Jewish” properties in regions where communities no longer exist (and where some do), as well as the related question of who should be responsible for maintaining them. What happens, for example, when Jewish communities cannot afford to maintain properties or when other considerations take priority? When does the state or another entity take ownership of “Jewish” property and how does the process fit into the larger frameworks for the economic organization of society? What about claims by international actors (e.g. the State of Israel, the Claims Conference, expatriated Jews, and religious groups) to properties in Europe and their demands that communities and governments treat them in specific ways? The histories of these interventions reflect shifts in transnational political cultures and economics. To that end, we seek a collection of papers which will together highlight differences, similarities, and interdependencies across Cold-War divides and within Cold-War camps, as well as factors that have distinguished individual states after 1989. Papers may also consider the concept of “Jewish” property, as it has been understood and challenged in Europe, or the status and maintenance of sites of Holocaust atrocities as “Jewish” properties. We invite papers on other forms of property as well, such as ritual and personal items.

We are soliciting applications to participate in an international workshop to be held at the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University in Berlin on March 24 – 26, 2015. Eight scholars will present papers of twenty minutes each (in English) and also respond to each other’s work. Please submit abstracts of no longer than 250 words to by 15 December 2014. We will notify accepted applicants by 15 January 2015. Some funding for travel and accommodations will be provided. We will seek to publish either all or some of the workshop papers. We will keep participants apprised as we finalize our publication plans.

 “The Stuff of Jews” seeks to assemble a diverse collection of scholars representing multiple cultural and ethnic backgrounds, countries of birth and origin, genders, sexualities, and academic disciplines. The workshop is open to scholars of all ranks, including advanced graduate students (ABD).

 “The Stuff of Jews” is made possible by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation and support from the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University in Berlin.

Please address all questions to Jacob Ari Labendz at


Jacob Ari Labendz, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Volkswagen Foundation Exchange

Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung, Technische Universität zu Berlin

Department of History, Washington University in St. Louis





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