14-15 September 2020
*UPDATE: This conference will now take place online.*
Many thanks to those who have already submitted proposals.
The deadline for submissions is 15 May 2020.
For much of the twentieth century, the received history of Jews in South Africa was a rather sanitized one. In popular culture as well as mainstream historiography, Jews were most often depicted as a valued and acquiescent immigrant community, navigating a successful journey from rags to riches while contributing spiritedly to the country’s development and welfare. This truthful but also congratulatory narrative has not disappeared since the end of apartheid, but now shares space and attention with accounts of Jewish involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle. The latter has become the feature most associated with the community’s history in the global Jewish imagination.
While there exists a nucleus of critical, nuanced research on Jews in South Africa, the field remains ripe for further exploration. What were the experiences of Jewish women, Sephardim, immigrants, and diverse others who did not fit into the Ashkenazi white male mould? What have been the relationships between Jews and their diverse non-Jewish neighbours across the colour spectrum, beyond the limited rubric of apartheid politics? How have South African Jewish experiences and dilemmas been manifest in literature, theatre, music, and art? How did the experiences of Jews compare with those of other minorities in South Africa? How did the choices made by South African Jews compare with those of Jews in other racialized societies? Has acculturation and assimilation followed patterns found elsewhere, or is there something distinctive about identity and identity formation among South African Jews? What more can we learn about South African Jewish religious practices, politics, languages, and identities if we open up the field of research?
This conference is intended as a springboard for a new generation of research. It will provide the first serious opportunity in many years to take stock of the field and to create a robust, forward-looking agenda. This is a conversation that must include diverse thinkers who will challenge received ideas and pioneer new areas of research, and as such, we welcome the participation of established scholars alongside younger scholars across disciplines; those whose work deals with pertinent themes such as identity, ‘whiteness’, and politics in a broader Jewish context; and those who explore these issues from outside the ivory tower, in film, art, public policy, and communal leadership.
We welcome paper proposals addressing these issues from a variety of perspectives.
Abstracts of proposed papers (up to 300 words) should be emailed to
Proposals should include a title, the name and affiliation of the participant, a brief biographical note (maximum 100 words), and email address.

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