CFP: Jewishness and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States

Call for Proposals

Edited volume: Jewishness and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States

Editors: Gillian Frank, Rachel Kranson & Jonathan Krasner

What differences have Jews and Judaism made in the history of American sexuality? How has the history of sexuality shaped the history of American Jews and Judaism?

Historians have investigated the centrality of sexuality to the political, social, and cultural history of the United States. Yet until recently, few historians of sexuality have attended to the important ways that Jewish religious practices, Jewish identities, Jewish culture, Jewish institutions, and Jewish political perspectives have shaped sexual politics, sexual communities and sexual identities over the course of the twentieth century. Likewise, historians of American Jews and Judaism have barely begun to account for the changing meanings of sexuality within American Jewish politics, institutions, practices, and identities.

There are multiple sites in the history of sexuality in the 20th century United States which an analysis of Jewishness will yield productive insights and transform dominant narratives. Likewise, there is so much we cannot understand about American Jewish life in the 20th century United States until we pay more attention to its sexual dimensions. To that end, this edited volume is accepting proposals for historical scholarship that places the categories of Jews, Judaism, and sexuality at the center of analysis in order to map the interrelation of changing Jewish and sexual landscapes. We welcome chapters that take Jewishness as a starting point for rethinking American sexual history and sexuality as a starting point for rethinking American Jewish history. Submissions that respond to the following questions are particularly encouraged:

  • How does focusing on the history of American Jews and Judaism enrich our understanding of the histories of sexualized racial formations; GLBTQ identities, communities and politics; sexual health or disease, eugenics, and social hygiene; commercialized sexuality (e.g., sex work, pornography, performance, popular culture); sexuality and technology; contraception and abortion; courtship, marriage, and divorce; reproduction and adoption; sex advice, sex education and sexual therapy; sexual subcultures; the law and sexuality (e.g., immigration, workplace discrimination, criminal sexuality); abstinence or chastity; gender role construction; and heterosexuality?
  • How does nuanced attention to sexuality reshape conventional narratives of twentieth century American Jewish history; the meanings and influence of secularity, secularization, and the secular; conceptions of Jewish community, Jewish continuity, and/or Jewish politics; the role of Jewish family; Jewish religious formations of racial, ethnic, sexual, gender identity/ies; and religious practices, and narratives of “tradition” and “modernity” alongside historical continuity and change?
  • What discursive and material contexts and practices constructed the relationship between American Jews and sexuality?
  • In what social institutions did Jewish and sexual experiences and ideas intersect?
  • How were Jewish spaces and places deployed variously as sites of sexual and gender socialization, experimentation, discovery, exploitation and/or repression.
  • In what ways have assumptions about sexuality affected the practices and decisions of American Jewish communal institutions, and the distribution of resources and power within those institutions?
  • How have sexual and Jewish identities been constructed in relation or opposition to each other?
  • In what ways have sexual subcultures and communities engaged with American Jews and Judaism?
  • How have Jewish religious authorities, ideas and institutions responded to or shaped sexual values, meanings, practices and identities?
  • How have American Jewish religious authorities’ ideas about (and policing of) sexual norms and deviancies change over time? How have American Jewish religious authorities, groups or institutions informed or enforced social rules about sexual behavior? How have they shaped and reshape dominant sexual meanings?
  • How have religious groups created alternative sexual subcultures?

Please send a proposal of no more than 1500 words to Gillian Frank (gaf4xf (at) virginia.edu), Jonathan Krasner (jkrasner (at) brandeis.edu) and Rachel Kranson (kranson (at) pitt.edu) by January 15, 2019 along with a 1-page CV. Please explicitly reference your major sources of research / archival sources in your proposal. Authors will be notified of decisions by March of 2019. The due date for completed drafts (of between 5000 and 7500 words) is August 15, 2019.

Author: Molly Farneth

Molly Farneth is Assistant Professor of Religion at Haverford College.

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