Richard K. Payne
This essay examines a variety of dysfunctional consequences of employing modern nation-states as the default organizing category for Buddhist studies regardless of the period being studied. Two of these consequences are directly related to one another: conflating contemporary nation-states with religious cultures, and equating religious and ethnic identities. Additionally, the organizing category tends to privilege some particular tradition as representative of or the essence of Buddhism in a specific nation-state, marking that tradition as uniquely authoritative. More broadly, research is constrained within the boundaries of nation-states, and the continuity of Buddhist traditions that cross nation-state boundaries is obscured. At the same time artificial continuities are retrospectively imposed, and the tradition comes to be defined by forms located at the center of political power. The work of four contemporary scholars is discussed as exemplifying the arguments for and value of moving away from nation-state categories. Consideration is given to the formative role of the training of missionaries and other agents of empire in the institutionalization of nation-state categories.
This article notes that the study of the modern history of East European Jews is not a field driven at present by deep conceptual or ideological divides or abiding scholarly or methodological controversies. The past debates on this score between Israeli and diaspora Jewish scholarship have all but disappeared, as has even more dramatically the attempt at a Marxist version of juedische Wissenschaft. While the major works of the founders of the field from Simon Dubnov on ought to be studied and the impressive resurgence of interest in the history and culture of East European Jewry in the modern age is underway, the work is still largely undone. The crucial challenge to the field is not to succumb to the lachrymose and romanticized stereotypes of Jewish life in Eastern Europe while continuing to explore the history of this the largest Jewry in the world before the Holocaust.
This article describes conceptions of the early modern period in Jewish historiography, the Italian Renaissance, intellectual history, the Jews of Central Europe in the early modern period, the Sephardic diaspora in Western Europe, and messianism. Classical Jewish historiography depicted a sharp break between medieval and modern patterns, the movements of transformation seeming to emerge virtually out of nothing. Cecil Roth's The Jews in the Renaissance introduced Jewish historians to the riches of Jewish life in this multifaceted world. Jewish intellectual history in the early modern period is characterized by successful attempts to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 had a profound impact on the life of Western European Jews, even beyond that on Iberian Jewry itself. Meanwhile, the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi reverberated strongly through the Jewish historiography of the early modern period.
Since their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, the dissemination of the Jews in Europe, northern Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas has resulted not only in the production of a literature in modern Jewish languages and dialects such as Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Judaeo-Italian, and Judaeo-Arabic, but also in a Jewish literature delivered in virtually every major Western tongue. These literatures in non-Jewish languages obviously fit into their respective national canons: Jewish-Portuguese authors are part of Portuguese letters, Jewish-Polish authors part of Polish letters, and so on. Five centuries after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and more than 200 years after the Haskalah, an abundance of fiction and poetry by Jews in non-Jewish languages around the globe is produced regularly. And a solid body of literary criticism that attempts to examine its ambivalence at the national and international levels goes hand in hand with it.
Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Despite significant achievements, certain challenges still confront the student of Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries. This article delineates four such challenges. First, the conceptual language and categories still need to be rethought: what is to be gained and lost by grouping Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries into one historical category? Second, while recent scholarship has challenged the ‘Sephardic Mystique’ and the ‘neo-lachrymose view of Jewish-Arab History’, there are other influential teleologies that warrant reconsideration, among them the teleologies of Westernization, modernization, and Zionism, all of which assume a Eurocentric perspective. Third, there remain numerous important gaps in the knowledge of Sephardi and Mizrahi culture and history, including social history, women's and gender history, comparative and inter-ethnic history. Fourth, there is still the task of using the scholarship on non-Ashkenazim to reconsider pre-existing assumptions about Jewish culture.