Political Ramifications: Expanding Jewish Political Thought
During the 2016–2017 academic year, the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania seeks to expand the study of Jewish political thought.
Over the course of their history, Jews have championed a range of ideological views and operated within a variety of political contexts. These experiences have generated a rich body of political thought, but there is an ongoing need to advance such thought in light of new developments in political theory and a changing world beyond academia. One way forward is to continue to stretch the boundaries of Jewish political thought in ways that intersect with the study of law, religion, history, literature, and other subjects, or that approach the subject in a comparative framework.
The Katz Center will feature scholars working in fields from ancient to contemporary, welcoming projects that enlist philosophy and theory to unsettle regnant paradigms of power and statehood, that draw on archival research to challenge established understandings of Jewish political history, or that make use of other less expected sources for political thought.
Research themes may include but are not limited to:
- Intersections with Religion and Culture. Recent years have seen a revived interest in the subject of political theology. How does Jewish political thought address the entanglement between religion and politics? Can and should political debates inform the development of Jewish theology, and can Jewish theology provide conceptual resources with which to tackle political problems?
- Comparative Study. How do categories and concepts from general political theory inform Jewish traditions of authority and membership? And what, conversely, can Jewish thought contribute to wider debates about topics such as sovereignty, allegiance, and citizenship?
- Law as Politics. Relevant projects could raise questions that span law and politics such as those concerning governance, jurisdiction, and Halakhah. They may investigate the politics of those who develop Jewish legal traditions or explore the relationship between those traditions and their political contexts.
- Finding the Political in the Local and the Everyday. General political theory has identified political logics and structures not only in the state but also in a range of more local contexts, including family, city, school, and congregation. What insights emerge from applying this theoretical approach to Jewish life?