Université d'Erfurt


Prof. Dr. Christiana Facchini

Fellow am Max-Weber-Kolleg
bis Februar 2016



Entangled Histories. Fabricating and Performing Judaism in Christian Culture (16th-20th Century)

Within the framework of the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt’s project on Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective, I presented a research project that aims at finalizing a book and few articles on a number of issues related to the history of Judaism and Christianity.

First of all, my research focuses on a set of different interconnections. The first one takes place at the crossroad between the early modern and modern period. The second one is relating to the interplay – real and symbolical – between Christian and Jewish culture; finally, the third one refers to interconnections between different places, as the Jews were largely a Diaspora community even during the rise of the national states.

More precisely, my project aims at reconstructing representations of Judaism, as they were often entangled to representations of Christianity, from the early modern period to the first half of the twentieth century. The mapping of these representations will be analyzed on the background of the ever-changing cultural, political and institutional setting of the Jewish diaspora, which in turn needed to respond and adapt to its environment. This entangled history will be pursue referring to “discourse analysis” while providing precise historical reconstructions of Jewish life and culture in its diverse historical settings.

Representations of Judaism in the early modern period were crafted by a varied typology of scholars, some of whom were important members of their congregations and other were at the margins of Jewish society. My project aims at reconstructing the material conditions and the cultural geography, which enabled these projects. Cultural products like books and manuscripts, alongside with visual material, were deeply defined by the nature and quality of the urban context. Certain cities hosted many religious communities that were in conflict and concert among themselves, but contributed to a growing debate over religion, and especially between Christianity and Judaism.

Representations of Judaism in the early modern period were both prescriptive and descriptive, maybe even often deceptive. They arose out of cultural changes in the realm of politics and society. Similarly to descriptions of the rise and development of Christianity or histories of the early church, they were deeply fostered by polemical discourse even if new tools of textual analysis and hermeneutical devices were offered as neutral means to reach a veritable historical truth. My research offers an insight into the deep polemical and theological context of the early modern period, trying to unearth devices of “neutrality” and “objectivity” in the formation of discourses on religion, while detecting new modes of description, both in historical and phenomenological perspectives.

Alongside with the formation of narratives about Judaism, the early modern period underwent a process of fragmentation and internal disruption, which fostered both the rise of individuality and a deep crisis of the medieval system of references. The early modern period is therefore of great interest because it offers a picture of the rise of modernity not exclusively tied to Christian symbolism, but more precisely entangled with other religious world-views. My research aims at describing this process in the background of a rising global world, which in turn set forth the path that led to the process of “secularization”. The second part of my research, which will be partiallypursued at the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt, is devoted to the rise of the “scientific century”, and the creation of a new language fostered by the development of the scientific analysis of religion.

Alongside with the restructuring of the political system, the rise of the nation system, and the impact of “secularization”, Judaism and Christianity reacted and promoted new forms of religion, created new cultural identities and resumed or emphasized different historical pasts.

My narrative aims to provide both a synchronic and diachronic perspective of Jewish and Christian symbolical systems, as they were conceptualized in the wider background of the rise of modernity.

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