Workshops and Conferences

Workshop IV

Colonialism, Orientalism and the Jews:

The Role of Gender and Postcolonial Studies Approaches

Date: 24.06 – 26.06.15

Location: Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp

Convened by Christine Achinger, Ulrike Brunotte, Vivian Liska, Christina Spaeti and Axel Stähler

The workshop will explore the possibility of applying perspectives developed in the context of Gender and Postcolonial Studies to Jewish Cultural Studies and Studies in Antisemitism with a special emphasis on the orientalization of Jews and Jewish self-orientalization.

The research field of orientalism is one of the most dynamic areas of interest in cultural studies today. More than three decades after the publication of Edward Said’s groundbreaking and highly contested study, Orientalism (1978), this debate has reached a new level of critical reflection through the inclusion of German “colonial fantasies” (Zantop 1997) and Germany’s history of an “inner colonialism” (Heschel, Hess et al.), or an “Inner Orient” (Rohde). As Germany played only a relatively marginal role among the colonial powers, the German view of the orient both in the academy and the wider social context was hardly affected by this discourse for more than 25 years. “Since the 1990s,” Rhode writes, “numerous studies have shown that Orientalist and colonial practices and fantasies formed an important part of German identity politics in the long nineteenth century and that they constituted a contrasting foil and a stabilizing tool for the German national project of modernity.” The nineteenth century also developed various modes of the orientalization of Jews as well as of the self-orientalization by Jews. New scholarly approaches (e.g. Penslar, Kalmar, Boyarin, Pellegrini, Polaschegg, Marchand, Pasto, Zantop, Heschel, Hess, Aschheim, Cheyette, Valman, and Rohde) bring together theoretical revisions in the fields of (German-)Jewish literature, theory and historiography on the one hand and the theory and history of orientalism, broadened to “colonial studies” on the other. They thus open up hitherto neglected perspectives on possible intersections between these fields of study. References to oriental styles, characters and topoi were applied to Jews in antisemitic discourses – particularly, but not exclusively in the German context; simultaneously, they appeared in the literary, intellectual, artistic and cultural production of German Jews as well as Jews in other national contexts. The latter phenomenon, commonly understood as “self-orientalization” may be considered as an ‘internalization’ of antisemitic and/or orientalist aggression, as subversive appropriation of the aggressor’s tools of oppression, or as an independent mode of self-reflection and self-fashioning. The exploration of Jewish self-orientalization sheds new light on the contested field of orientalism.

In this workshop we wish to offer the framework for a discussion of ways in which these recently developed theoretical and methodological approaches, primarily in Postcolonial Studies and in its historically entangled relation to the Study of Antisemitism, may be made productive for an investigation of “Colonialism, Orientalism and the Jews.” Special attention will be given to the ways in which Jewish self-orientalization challenges suggestions by Said and others that orientalism is nothing more than a patronizing attitude and a “strange, secret sharer” of Western antisemitism.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Steven Aschheim, Ivan Kalmar, Derek Penslar

Workshop III

Third Space/ (Self)-Orientalization

Workshop II

The Homophobic Argument. National Politics and Sexuality in Transregional Perspective

Date: 18.06. – 20.06.2014

Location: Festsaal der Humboldt-GraduateSchool, 2nd floor, Humboldt University Berlin, Luisenstr. 56, 10117 Berlin.

Find here the description and program of the Workshop

Workshop I

Gender, Sexual Nationalism, Antisemitism, and Orientalism in European Identity Discourses

Date: 30.05. – 1.06.2013

Location: Maastricht University, Grote Gracht 80-82, Room 0.001, 6200 Maastricht

Outline of the Conference Topic

Taking our lead from new theoretical perspectives on “Sexual Nationalism”, neo-Orientalism and contemporary veil performances, this workshop will start with a discussion of current debates about the comparability of Antisemitism and “Islamophobia”. Secondly, it will concentrate on historical constructions of Jewish identity from the perspective of colonialism and Orientalism. How did the stereotypes of the external and the internal Other intertwine? What role did/do gender and processes of sexualization and ‘aesthetic formations’ play therein? The first workshop aims at a state-of-the-art overview of gender and postcolonial studies approaches to intersections of new and old Orientalism, pre-Shoa Antisemitism, and the ambivalent trope of an ‘inner Orient’, as can be seen, for example, in the figure of the “beautiful Jewess”.


The workshops’ format aims to foster intensive exchange, development of the network, getting in contact, learning from each other, comparing the different case studies, historical fields, and methodological approaches, and strengthening common ground and goals. Every speaker has 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes for direct questions and remarks. Afterwards, we will have a plenary discussion about each unit. In the program you’ll find the ‘respondent’ function. Since we do not have time for elaborate responses, the ‘respondents’ will formulate some questions and add remarks

Find here the program of the Workshop: Rengoo Workshop Maastricht 2013