A conference at the University of Chicago, February 13, 2012Posts RSS Comments RSS

About the Conference


“Borders in Jewish Thought” is a one-day conference that will be held at the University of Chicago on February 13, 2012. The conference will explore the ways in which Jews have invoked the borders of the Land of Israel as a malleable metaphor for considering a variety of issues that extend beyond geography. The Hebrew Bible presents several border schemes of the Land of Israel: some extend from the Nile to the Euphrates, while others are limited to the land of Canaan hemmed in by the Jordan; some emphasize natural boundaries while others delineate the borders according to ritual logic. Each scheme represents a different conception of the sanctity of space and the way divine favor is mapped onto the physical landscape. Thus, in biblical references to natural and political borders the landscape becomes a powerful metaphor for defining and upholding cultural and hermeneutical boundaries.

Subsequently, Jews from antiquity to the present day have continued to use the borders of Israel as a broad interpretive category for thinking about a variety of religious, social, and political concerns. Even in their earliest formulations, the borders were not merely geographic markers, but a means of providing spatial representations for discourses of power, legitimization and communal identity with respect to real or imagined neighbors.

The goal of this conference is to look at ways in which thinkers – such as Jewish pilgrims, sectarians, settlers, soldiers, poets, artists, politicians, philosophers, and exegetes – have invoked geographical language to articulate a wide spectrum of concerns.

The conference is made possible by the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies, the Committee on Social Thought, the Department of History, the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.


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