Call for Papers: Spiritual Homelands—Wahlheimat—Elective Exiles, October 8-9, 2015

The University of Virginia and Daat Hamakom- Center for the Study of Cultures of Place in Jewish Modernity invite paper proposals for a joint multidisciplinary, international conference and workshop on the theme of “Spiritual Homelands—Wahlheimat—Elective Exiles,” which will take place at the University of Virginia and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016, respectively. The conferences will be open to the public and will produce a volume to be published jointly by the University of Virginia and by Daat Hamakom. Invited participants are encouraged to attend both events and to contribute to the volume of essays. Proposals should be submitted to Asher Biemann and Zvi Gilboa no later than February 15, 2015.

When, in 1945, writing from his Istanbul exile, Erich Auerbach characterized the modern condition as the “problem of man’s self-orientation” and “the task of making oneself at home in existence without fixed points of support,” he alluded not only to the fluidity of home but also to the simultaneous need of fashioning oneself a home in a world “boundless and incomprehensible.” Spiritual homelands is an exploration into a world of boundary crossings, desired places and alternate identities, a world made of adopted kin and invented allegiances. What makes this theme relevant is that the election of a homeland is no mere fantasy and projection of the mind, but rather a transformative and mutually constitutive process. Our intention is to discuss the role of choosing alternate places in the emergence of communities—be those communities characterized by sentiment, shared fate or religion, or common interests—as well as identifying with cultures not necessarily one’s own, a process, which can neither be subsumed under cosmopolitanism nor merely be ridiculed as exoticism. Such spiritual homelands, however naïve and imaginary they may be, are works of self-formation, as well as “self-othering,” but at the same time are also forms of cultural critique, as well as statements of dissent and protestation. Looking at spiritual homelands from a broad perspective that includes, but is not limited to religion, ethnicity, gender, generational gaps, media, cinema, literature, music, and visual and plastic arts, our conference will thus engage in a conversation beyond the historical, questioning the necessity and impossibility of being, in our age, a global citizen.

We welcome proposals from any academic discipline and cultural context. Thematic areas may include, but are not limited to: Literature in Adopted Languages; Imagined Kinships (such as pan-Semitism, mediterraneanism); Homecoming and Return; Exile as Dissent; Desired Places; Dreamlands and Cities of Longing; Cultural Conversions.

Presenters will receive a limited stipend towards travel and accommodations for the time of the conference. For questions and inquiries please contact Asher Biemann and Zvi Gilboa

Supported by the Center for German Studies and the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia; the Buckner W. Clay Foundation; the Gunst Trust. Supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and The Israel Science Foundation (grant No 1798/12).