Jews and the Law - Year 1: Rethinking Premodern Jewish Legal Cultures
The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to open a call for applications for the first of two successive fellowship years devoted to Jews and the law.
Jews have been closely associated with law since antiquity, developing a rich and complex legal tradition and participating variously in the legal cultures of the societies in which they have lived. Several leading universities are now home to centers for Jewish law, ancient to contemporary in focus, and the topic is drawing scholarly interest from well beyond the field of legal studies, including research in history, literature, philosophy, political theory, and gender studies, among others. The Katz Center is pleased to contribute to this growing and expansive topic over the course of two consecutive fellowship years devoted to exploring the connections between Jewish studies and legal thought, culture, and practice.
During the first year of this cycle, the 2021–22 academic year, the Center seeks to support scholars working on law as a dynamic feature of Jewish culture in premodern contexts, spanning from antiquity to the eighteenth century.
The Katz Center invites applications that propose the study or framing of Jewish law or legal thinking within relevant historical contexts; that explore the relationship between law and other aspects of society or culture; that attend to questions of form, genre, and rhetoric; that investigate the institutions, practices, and actors that enact law; or that address related topics such as governance and/or crime. The vision for the year is of a fellowship community that advances an interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional approach to law and that bridges between Jewish law and other legal cultures.
Successful topics, among others, might explore:
- Exchange between Jewish and non-Jewish legal genres, substance, and practice; the ubiquity of legal pluralisms in Jewish and ambient legal cultures.
- The relationship between halakhic texts and the social practice of law, as reflected in court documents and notarial records from disparate premodern Jewish communities.
- Evidence of negotiations between law, halakhic, and other sources of social and cultural authority (such as custom) in premodern Jewish societies.
- The theorization of sovereignty—by Jews and over Jews—in different periods and places.
- New approaches that illuminate Jewish intellectual history within and across premodern periods.
- The intersection between law and empire, and between race, religion, and territory, in a variety of Jewish contexts.
- The formation and authorization of legal experts across Jewish contexts, and their portrayal in the Jewish literary imagination.
- The deployment of Jewish law in broader cultural discourses.
- The benefits and limitations of different disciplinary approaches to these questions: history, anthropology, sociology, literature, etc.