Conference of the Association for European Jewish Literature Studies 2019 in Aachen The Present and Future of European Jewish Literary Studies in a Changing Europe
The Association for European Jewish Literature Studies (EJLS) in cooperation with Prof. Stephan Braese, the Ludwig Strauß Professor for European Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Rhineland-Westphalia Technical University of Aachen, announces a conference on the theme The Present and Future of European Jewish Literary Studies in a Changing Europe. The conference will take place from 18-20 November 2019 at the Rhineland-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen. It is the eighth conference of the EJLS.
A new perspective on the “Jewish Renaissance in Europe” (Diana Pinto) emerged after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the political upheaval in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989/90. The immigration to Germany of large numbers of Jews from the former Soviet Republics, as well as developments in Poland and Hungary, seemed to open up new possibilities for Jewish life in Europe after the Holocaust and the Cold War. Today, however, the picture has changed radically. Right-wing populist movements, including parties that employ openly racist and anti-Semitic slogans, have altered political discourse in profound ways. While in Poland and Hungary the Constitutional State is being undermined, in France the radical right-wing Front National continues to attract adherents. Moreover, in September 2017, the “Alternative für Deutschland” was elected to the German Bundestag on a platform that included demands for a radical turn in commemorative culture and recognition of the achievements of German soldiers during WWII.
Some observers argue that anti-Semitism in Europe has not increased but has merely become more visible; and yet even if this is so the public atmosphere has unquestionably changed. In France, afflicted by anti-Semitic violence perpetrated under an Islamist banner, many Jews have emigrated to Israel or to the United States. In Germany, attacks on Jews have taken place in broad daylight in the streets.
The Association for European Jewish Literature Studies was founded in 2006, at a time when European unification was far less contentious than it is today. Even then, however, it was already becoming evident that state administrations, especially in Germany and Austria, regarded Jewish studies as unworthy of political support. While the political backing of Jewish studies in universities and in adult education had for a long time fulfilled the function of moral reparation, “the end of the post-war period” (James Baker) seemed to release authorities from this responsibility. The institutional anchoring of Jewish studies – and with them the study of European Jewish literature – at European universities was never stable. The current situation in Europe, however, underlines emphatically the indispensability of European Jewish literary studies to a culture of remembrance that laid the foundations for post-war Europe.
This conference aims at investigating both the tasks and challenges facing European Jewish literary studies today. Contributions can address conceptual issues or theoretical underpinnings, examine the history or recent developments of the discipline, or present concrete case studies that inform the present. Criticism and self-criticism are no less welcome than persuasive proposals for the future. As a whole, the conference aims to take stock soberly at a time of profound change—for Europe and for the working European Jewish literary studies alike.
The conference is organized under the aegis of the Association for European Jewish Literature studies by Stephan Braese, the Ludwig Strauß Professor for European Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Rhineland-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen and will take place in Aachen.