The past decades have seen the emergence of an intense interest in the subject of travel as a complex range of practices and representations. The inherent richness and diversity of the evidence, texts, and materials related to Jewish travel make it a perfect venue to engage scholars from a broad range of disciplines and periods (ancient, medieval, and modern history, literature, art and film, anthropology, postcolonial and gender studies) in a critical dialogue.

Travel writing in particular (in its mimetic, imaginative, and hybrid modes) has served a variety of social and ideological functions throughout the ages, and unquestionably, travels of dislocation and return, pilgrimage, trade and conquest, hold a prominent place in formative Jewish and non-Jewish fictions of identity. What cultural and ideological work is performed by these texts, and how do they produce representations of an-Other and his world, against which and through which they explore and invent a particular sense of self? This is the problematic that this research group will explore.

While each mode and each period brings its own questions and dilemmas, there are a number of common questions and issues cutting across disciplinary lines that proposals could address:

  • What are the institutions and conditions that foster travel, such as new technologies, concepts of leisure, or commercial networks linking Jewish communities in far-off places? How do these factors provide social, political, and economic contexts that influence both travel fact and travel fiction?
  • How do travel discourses engage in a critical dialogue with "hearth and home," supporting or disturbing dominant perceptions of centers and margins? How do these categories look like when viewed through a Jewish lens as opposed to a Christian or Muslim one?
  • How do the various genres and discourses of travel writing interact and influence one another? How does the real affect the imaginary, and vice versa? How do travel literatures themselves circulate?
  • How is the journey depicted in visual media such as photography, sketches, and film? How is travel imagined in postcards or touristic advertising?
  • To what extent does Jewish travel map onto the movement made possible by the expanding frontiers of empires, both ancient and modern? How, for example, do Jewish authors interact with European models of expansion and discovery?
  • While relatively few pre-modern travel narratives were written by women, travel accounts do raise important issues of gender agency and representation. How does gender influence both what is seen and how it is interpreted in the various modes of travel writing?

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