DFG-Priority Program “Jewish Cultural Heritage”
Program duration: 2022 – 2028
The priority program “Jewish Cultural Heritage” is designed as an infrastructure for researchers across disciplines to elucidate on different aspects of Jewish cultural heritage. The aim of the priority program is to support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research projects, which seek to contextualize developments concerning the societal and politico-cultural significance of, Jewish cultural heritage, and the multiple and engagement with it. The program seeks to understand what is categorized as Jewish cultural heritage; by whom; and the processes of negotiation in relation the preceding points among stakeholders and other actors with vested interests. The mechanisms that structure historical and contemporary relationships between society, Jewish cultural heritage, and the relevant political, economic, religious, and sociocultural spheres will be identified and analyzed accordingly.
Drawing from current insights and discourses in the field of Critical Heritage Studies, the overall objective of the project is to develop an understanding of the discursivation of the cultural heritage of Jews in Europe. This involves a reconsideration of the German concept of “Jüdisches Kulturerbe”, understood as a cultural-political and economic resource, specifically the cultural heritage of a civilization that vanished; and ‘Jewish heritage’, understood as the totality of all forms of expression of Jewish life. An interdisciplinary team of scholars will critically examine tangible, intangible, and intellectual objects, contexts of creation, and the processes of transmission and innovation of Jewish cultural heritage. Other questions to be considered include the development and deployment of strategies for involving Jewish communities and institutions in the heritagization processes of their own heritage. In the first funding period, the participating scholars will devote themselves primarily, and from a comparative vantage point, to theoretical reflection on the diverse understandings and the changing uses of Jewish cultural heritage in identified European societies. Retrospective analyzes, together with comparative classifications of historical and contemporary developments in Germany and Europe will feature prominently at this stage. In this manner, the PP “Jewish Cultural Heritage” aspires to turn interdisciplinary examinations of, and reflections on Jewish heritage into a trans-disciplinary consideration of the latter; and to join and merge previous academic, monument preservation, museological and cultural-political work in this field in a critical, and thus forward-looking, way.
Against the background of current debates about forms of representation, and the restitution of cultural assets looted from their original contexts during the colonial era, it is clear that Jewish cultural heritage should be more intensively discussed and redefined with the participation of Jewish actors, rather than without them. The PP brings together a range of disciplines interested in the objects and concepts of Jewish heritage. Research methodology and objects will be exchanged and compared by way of interdisciplinary sub-projects and cross-project formats, enabling a genuine transdisciplinary perspective. In addition to the relevant disciplines of Jewish Studies, History, and Literary Studies, the view ‘from the margins’ on concepts and objects of Jewish cultural heritage should form a part of the ongoing conversation. Research fields such as Musicology, architecture, archaeology, art history, monument preservation, museology, philosophy, (empirical) cultural studies/anthropology, linguistics and literary studies, critical heritage studies, and sociology—all of which will feature in this project—will provide fresh perspectives.