The aim of this conference is to expand our understanding of the intersection of German and Jewish culture by emphasizing the extensive cultural production on the German-Jewish and German-Israeli fault lines and putting the dialogue between the two languages and literatures – German and Hebrew – at the center. This is a topic that has evaded scholars of German Jewish and Hebrew Literature in the past because the two fields have largely remained separate. The event is being initiated in reaction to a perceived sea change in both scholarship and culture: an increasing number of bilingual scholars and cultural agents are engaged in the interaction between German and Hebrew and investigating its past. What enables this conversation to thrive at the present moment is one of the central topics to be investigated.
Moving away from the previously dominant concepts of identity, memory and trauma we aim to introduce new concepts such as cultural contact, bilingualism and translation. This is an interdisciplinary project that draws on fields such as Comparative Literature, Translation Studies, Comparative Politics and Anthropology. Germans, Jews and Israelis turn to translation, borrowing, adaptation and exchange between the two languages and literatures for widely different reasons at different times; moreover, none of the different categories – Germans, Jews, Hebrew or German speakers, Israelis – is inherently stable, and they overlap in multiple senses. But a comprehensive mapping of this uneven topography is yet to be undertaken, and there is much to learn from it.
What do Germans and Israelis discover when they travel from one culture to the other? What is the place of Israel in the contemporary German political landscape and cultural imagination? How do Israelis use the German past when they discuss their political present?
Conference Organizer: Na’ama Rokem, Assistant Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature (University of Chicago)