Call for abstracts for AJS 2020 session: Jewish American Representations of Black Women

Abby Gondek's picture

For AJS 2020 (Dec. 13-15 in Washington D.C.) we are asking for brief abstracts to form a session related to the topic: Jewish American Representations of Black Women

Within the ethnic and racial mosaic of American society, Jewish-Black relations have been notable not only due to the overabundance of books and essays written about them, but also due to the defensive or antagonistic polemical character of many of them. One aspect that has received fairly little attention in that vast literature involves Jewish attitudes toward, and portrayals of Black women, their appearance, sexuality, family structures and spiritual practices. Scholars of various White societies have explored the role Black women have played in the collective sexual imagination. In the American context, Black women and men were often portrayed as having an animalistic sex drive and being hyper-sexual. That alleged sexual prowess proved itself deadly with the incrimination and lynching of Black people for being "sexual animals." In addition, Black women were often pathologized for their supposedly "dysfunctional" family life, which critics called "matri-centric" and they were accused of causing social and urban problems like juvenile delinquency.  Finally, if Black women practiced African-based religion they were demonized for their "witchcraft."

We seek additional participants for a panel that deals with how American Jewish writers, intellectuals, public figures, and artists, of European origin or descent, in the first half of the 20th century, represented and related to Black women, their bodies, sexualities, spiritualities and families and what complex questions about gender concepts, sexuality, race relations, and the place of Jews of European origin/descent in American society do such case studies raise.

We plan to submit to the Gender/Sexuality, Jews in the Americas, Social Science, Yiddish Studies, or Interdisciplinary sub-divisions.

The co-organizers are:

Abby Gondek, Morgenthau Scholar-in-Residence at the FDR Library and Museum

Gil Ribak, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Arizona


Please submit a brief abstract (100-200 words) of your initial ideas for your paper to Abby Gondek by April 10, 2020:

After we receive submissions we will contact you to ask for more extended abstracts in order to develop the full session proposal. Also if you have a paper idea and aren't sure if it fits please reach out to Abby Gondek so we can talk more about it.

Thanks for reading and looking forward to your submissions.

*Please note that the deadline for submissions of full proposals for sessions is April 30, 2020.