- 2023-2024 Jewish Visual Cultures
- 2022-2023 Mizrahim and the Politics of Ethnicity
- 2021-2022 Second Temple Judaism: The Challenge of Diversity
- 2020-2021 Translating Jewish Cultures
- 2019-2020 Yiddish Matters
- 2018-2019: Sephardic Identities Medieval and Early Modern
- 2017-2018 Jews and the Material in Antiquity
- 2016-2017 Israeli Histories, Societies, and Cultures
- 2015-2016 Secularization/Sacralization
- 2014-2015 Jews and Empires
- 2013-2014 New Perspectives on Gender and Jewish Life
- 2012-2013 Borders of Jewishness: Microhistories of Encounter
- 2011-2012 Jews & Political Life
- 2010-2011 Critical Terms in Jewish Language Studies
- 2009-2010 The Culture of Jewish Objects
- 2008-2009 Studying Jews
- 2007-2008 Jews & the City
Secularization, a freighted and a contested notion, particularly in Jewish contexts, has opened up immensely rich discussions in a wide range of fields. Recent attention to the nature of “secular Judaism”—Jewishness without religiosity—has in some ways deflected Jewish Studies from these discussions by narrowing the notion of the secular to questions of identity, ethnicity, and culture. Other debates about secularization focus on either the growing irrelevance or persistence of faith in increasingly rationalized societies, producing a linear conception of richly complex and dynamic processes. The theme of the Frankel Institute will explore this complexity and dynamism of making objects, acts, and relationships holy and marking off others as worldly and apart from spiritual life.
Secularization and sacralization are key to inquiries into changes within Judaism and the ways in which Jews interacted with others. These shifts and relations are not limited to the modern period. Asking questions about the sacred and the secular in Judaism involves the places where and ways in which personal faith, communal relations, and daily life practices coincided, and the means by which spiritual and worldly have been interwoven. The Frankel Institute deliberately focuses on the processes of secularization and sacralization rather than the static dichotomy of sacred and secular, or presumed states of holiness and secularity, and rejects assumptions that these processes are identical in different times and places, or lead to a common and determined endpoint.
“Secularization/Sacralization” may best be conceived as an implicitly comparative project that invites participants to explore contacts among Jewish, Christian, and Islamic secular and sacral processes within an array of disciplinary discussions.
Where and when has the separation of the spiritual from the material become salient, and how has this raised consciousness of separation manifested itself? When and how have the perceived segregation of sanctified, spiritual, interior, or transcendental experiences from the temporal everyday been resisted? When has the rise of canons, codes, and revaluations of values constituted unwitting sacralizations in spite of the secular impulse of their proponents and participants? The exploration of these processes at the Frankel Institute will incorporate popular experience as well as products of high culture, dynamic practices as well as theories, and multiplicities of experiences subsumed under the names of such processes.
The 2015-16 Institute Annual is available online, and features essays by all of the fellows highlighting their research on "Secularization/Sacralization".
Wayne State University
"Religious Ceremonials | Museum Artifacts: Rethinking Jewish Ritual Objects"
University of Michigan
"Walter Benjamin's Secular Prayer"
New York University
"The Weight of an Epoch: Yiddish Modernism and German Modernity in the Weimar Era"
University of Sheffield
"Thinking Outside the City Walls: Philosophy, Geography and the Radicalism of Judaic Thought"
Michigan State University
"A Rosenberg by Any Other Name"
"Strategic Sacralization in American Jewish Politics: The Contradictions of Cultural Mobilization in the American Soviet Jewry Movement"
University of Dayton
"The Medieval Postcolonial Jew: In and Out of Time"
National Center forScientific Research
"Secularization/Sacralization in Jewish-German culture : Kafka, Benjamin, Bloch, Fromm"
"Expanding the Boundaries of Holiness': Conceptions of the Sacred in Modern Hasidic Spirituality"
"The Other David: Between the Tanach and the Palmach"
University of Michigan
"The "Secularization Question": Germans, Jews, and the Historical Understanding of Modernity"
Hebrew University & University of Oxford
"The Secularized Study of the Abrahamic Religions in the Nineteenth Century"
University of Michigan
"Resurrecting the Jew: Philosemitism, Pluralism and Secularism in Contemporary Poland"