BIAJS Conference: Unfolding Time: Texts – Practices – Politics

11–13 July 2022, King’s College London

‘The word unfolding has a double meaning. A bud unfolds into a blossom, but the boat which one teaches children to make by folding paper unfolds into a flat sheet …’  Walter Benjamin.

The annual conference of the British and Irish Association for Jewish Studies 2022 invites scholars to explore how Jews have shaped and shape their individual, familial and communal commitments, their cultural and social lives, their historical understandings and political projects by engaging imaginatively with time and ‘time-like’ matters.

The conference theme recognizes the intense and fruitful engagement in Jewish Studies with questions of time and temporality in recent years. The study of time, time-keeping and temporalities is flourishing in particular in the fields of early rabbinic, mystical and apocalyptic literature. Investigations of time and temporalities in medieval Jewish philosophy and early modern Jewish culture, critical interrogations of the sharp distinction between history and memory in modern times and current ethnographic research on time in a pandemic are just a few further examples for the renewed interest in Jewish temporalities across various fields. The conference will offer the opportunity to bring together a wide range of approaches and insights from diverse periods and regions to nourish new interdisciplinary conversations on Jewish temporalities. It invites us to ask, for instance, how studies of temporal thinking in halakhah, investigations of midrash and history, or research on eschatological temporalities resonate in the study of medieval, early modern and modern Jewish culture. Explorations of the temporalities of reception and transmission in the History of the Book and Reception Studies, and fresh insights from, e.g., Islamic Studies, Literary Studies, Gender Studies and Queer Studies may further shape such interdisciplinary conversations.

Conference papers could address, among others, the following questions:

  • How did and do Jews in diverse historical and cultural contexts conceptualize, represent and imagine matters of time through texts, narratives, genres (e.g. commentary) and their transmission?
  • How do they enact and perform interpretations of time through individual, familial and communal practices?
  • How do they interact with non-Jewish approaches, e.g. in Christianity and Islam, and how do they shape distinctive Jewish takes on time and temporality?
  • How have ‘Jews’ and ‘Judaism’ been constructed in non-Jewish contexts through the prism of time?
  • How did and do Jews respond to the politics of progressive time, e.g. to Christian supersessionist interpretations of history in ancient and modern times, or to the progress narratives of the European Enlightenment, secularism and colonialism? How may new insights about periodization, sovereignty and the ‘politics of time’ suggest fruitful new avenues for research?
  • How can renewed attention to questions of temporality foster critical and creative engagements with the climate crisis, the current health crisis and new movements for social justice?

Papers on topics beyond the conference theme are also very welcome, including proposals by graduate students wishing to present on their doctoral research.

The conference is planned to take place in person, while the situation will be kept under review, and it will move to an online format if necessary.

Paper proposals should include an abstract (max. 250 words) and a speaker biography (max. 100 words). Panel proposals should also include a rationale for the panel (max. 250 words), and should be mixed in terms of gender and career stages.

A limited number of bursaries are available for PhD students and early career scholars based in Europe (including the UK). If you would like to be considered for a bursary, please state this as part of your proposal and include your CV (max. 2 pages).

Please send proposals and all conference-related inquiries to  biajs2022@kcl.ac.uk. The submission deadline is Monday 10 January 2022. Outcomes will be communicated by 21 March 2022.

The conference organisers would like to thank the European Association of Jewish Studies and the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at King’s College London for their support.