Queering Jewish Cultural Heritage in Europe

Jewish Transformations through Reparative Response and Creative Encounter

This project is led by 'Principal Investigator' PD Dr. Sacha Kagan (University of Hildesheim) and 'International Cooperation Partner' Prof. Dr. Miranda Crowdus (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)

Part of the DFG-Priority Program 2357: Jewish Cultural Heritage (2022-2025)

The project considers the diversity of contemporary Jewish cultures in the context of hegemonic European societies, identifying the creation of Jewish Cultural Heritage as a process that is initiated and stimulated through Jewish encounters. Jewish positionalities are analyzed in their creative encounters with and queering responses to publicly constituted Jewish Cultural Heritage. The project focuses on the negotiations of queer Jews in these encounters and includes an array of Jewish positionalities from secular to orthodox - both modern orthodox and haredi - which arguably “queer” Jewish Cultural Heritage in own ways that are markedly different from its intended consumption for the general public. A particular emphasis is placed on the identity negotiations of queer Jews and their creation of their own Jewish Heritage through artistic creation and creative encounters. An emphasis is also placed on looking at the nuances of gender construction in traditional Jewish practice in contrast with hegemonic heteronormativity. Queering is deployed for cultural sustainability, exploring the art of living together as a queering creative & critical process beyond path dependencies of dominant norms, to unsettle certainties of good life and open up to possible other lives. 
The project’s queer critique will investigate normativities at two levels of the social construction of Heritage: 

(1) Queering the Public Construction of Jewish Cultural Heritage in the Public Sphere of European Societies, with attention to its possible marginalization and/or exclusion effects on contemporary Jewish communities. 
(2) Queering the dominant constructions of Jewish Cultural Heritage as Jewish Heritage within contemporary Jewish cultures, with attention to the possible marginalization and/or exclusion effects on queer individuals and groups whose cultural identities and practices conflict at least partly with dominant values and norms.

Specific (sensory-)ethnographic empirical attention will be placed on
(1) the moment of engagement or moment of encounter (i.e. the moment of some form of contact with Heritage - be it conceptual or sensory) as an indicator of negotiating cultural difference, and on
(2) cultural productions that may involve queering reparative (i.e. healing, disidentificatory & utopian-potentiality-ladden) processes. The project will seek ways in which the treatment and presentation of Jewish Cultural Heritage can be made more equitable while allowing for a gamut of Jewish and queer agencies, developing rubrics & prototypes towards pluralist convivial constructions of Cultural Heritage.

Queer-Jewish intersections constitute an important example revealing the diversity and complexity of Jewish creation of heritage. This research will open up new topics in Jewish Studies and contribute to investigating the complex relationship of the small Jewish minority in Europe today to politics, policy and conventions in the wider Public Sphere