CfP: Resorts, Spas, and Sommerfrische: Jewish Cultures of Rest and Recreation

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Call for Papers for the conference Resorts, Spas, and Sommerfrische: Jewish Cultures of Rest and Recreation


A cooperation between the Jewish Studies Program, Central European University, and the Center for Jewish Studies, University of Graz

Organizers: Susanne Korbel (University of Graz), Michael L. Miller (CEU)

Location: Bad Aussee

Date: 12–14.6.2023

Deadline for applications: 15 December 2022


In the 19th century, regular trips to health resorts and spas gained enormous popularity. In the summer months, tourists from the metropolises made pilgrimages to countryside resorts in order to enjoy themselves, spend their leisure time, escape the sweltering city, and restore their health by "taking the cure." During the Sommerfrische (summer holidays), these small towns located at mineral springs or lakes were transformed into cosmopolitan spaces that represented important nodes and contact zones for an international and socially diverse set of actors. At these destinations, urban culture was set in new contexts. By the end of the 19th century, guests from all social classes were represented in the spas and resorts. Among them, Jews formed a noticeably large group.

In summer resort and spa towns, visitors conducted informal business, engaged in diplomacy, and participated in cultural productions that often rivaled spa offerings or opportunities for physical exercise. Because of the informal and relaxed setting, those places also allowed for the emergence of fleeting as well as long-term relationships. The spa towns thus functioned as important arenas of interaction for an ethnically, nationally, religiously, politically, and socially heterogeneous cohort of visitors. Spaces of opportunity opened up here for a long time. However, as antisemitism grew and radicalized in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of these resorts declared themselves "Jew-free" in populist slogans and campaigns.

This international conference aims to explore Sommerfrische destinations, summer resorts, and spas, focusing on the particular urban processes that led to their emergence and the factors that transformed them into spaces of possibility in a rural or small-town context. Did summer resorts and spa destinations become cosmopolitan and international metropolises in microcosm? Were certain urban conventions of behavior and sociability temporarily suspended? A global perspective will allow us to examine articulations of ethnic, national, religious, political, and social identifications of the proprietors, guests, and the year-round local population. In particular, the conference will examine the dynamics of Jewish/non-Jewish relations. Who came into contact with whom? Which communicative spaces emerged in the resorts? What was the quality and nature of Jewish/non-Jewish relationships? What was the nature of interactions among Jews – for example between working-class and middle-class Jews, or between the secular and observant? Were encounters ephemeral or did they lead to lasting friendships? How did the encounter between tourists from different social classes and religious groups, with diverse ethnic and national affiliations, affect perceptions, prejudices, and resentments?

The conference will take place at Bad Aussee (Austria) on 12-14 June 2023. We look forward to receiving abstracts in English of no more than 300 words by researchers from all relevant disciplines. Please send an abstract and a short CV by e-mail (to by 15 December 2022.

The organizers will provide travel allowances for participants who have no academic affiliation or are unable to cover their travel expenses. In the abstract, please indicate whether you would like to apply for a travel allowance.