Next Year in the Caribbean: Race, Religion, and Roots in the Jewish Atlantic World

The Program in Jewish Culture & Society invites you to join us for a 2-day symposium on the Jewish Caribbean that Professor Dana Rabin and Associate Professor Dara Goldman have co-organized that will be held on Sunday, April 11th and Monday, April 12th. Throughout its history, the Caribbean has been the site of encounters, convergences, conflicts, transcultural flows, and (post)colonial fragmentation. Jewish communities across the region, in particular, offer an intriguing case study of the currents of Caribbean cultures. They both belong and are outsiders, easily fit into the ethnic and racialized landscapes of their adopted homelands and disrupt the underlying assumptions that govern them, contribute to the rich array of religious diversity and practice their faith in ways that prove confusing if not heretical to their neighbors. This symposium brings together scholars who study the art, culture, history, and literature of Caribbean Jewish communities from the 18th century to the present. Through careful analysis of diverse Jewish cultures and societies across the Caribbean basin, we hope to engage in a critical dialogue about the intersections of Jewisihness and Caribbeanness and what can be learned from the experiences, expressions, contradictions, difficulties, and worldviews of the Jewish Atlantic world.

The symposium will be held over Zoom. Each presentation will be followed by a prepared response, and then the sessions will be open the to conversation. The event will conclude with a roundtable, which is intended to provide a space for further discussion and reflection on what we have learned and how the presentations speak to one another and to larger issues raised over the course of the 2 days. We hope that you will be able to join us for as much of the symposium as you are able. It is free and open to the public.

Registration is required. You can register here, after which you will receive a confirmation message and the link for the Zoom session.  If you have any questions, please contact the Program in Jewish Culture & Society

Symposium Schedule PDF.

Laura Arnold Leibman is a Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon (USA) and the author of The Art of the Jewish Family: A History of Women in Early New York in Five Objects (Bard Graduate Center, 2020) which won three National Jewish Book Awards. Her earlier book Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (2012) won a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award and a National Jewish Book Award. Her work focuses religion and the daily lives of women and children in early America and uses everyday objects to help bring their stories back to life. She has been a visiting fellow at Oxford University, a Fulbright scholar at the University of Utrecht, the University of Panama, and the Leon Levy Foundation Professor of Jewish Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center.  Her forthcoming Once We Were Slaves (Oxford UP, 2021) is about an early multiracial Jewish family who began their lives enslaved in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York.

Sarah Phillips Casteel is Professor of English at Carleton University, where she is cross-appointed to the Institute of African Studies. She is the author most recently of Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2016), which won a Canadian Jewish Literary Award, and co-editor of Caribbean-Jewish Crossings: Literary History and Creative Practice (University of Virginia Press, 2019). She has held visiting fellowships at the Zentrum Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and this spring she will hold a Potsdam Postcolonial Chair in Global Modernities. Her current book project addresses literary and visual representations of Black victims of Nazi persecution.

Dara E. Goldman is Associate Professor of Spanish, specializing in contemporary Caribbean and Latin American literatures and cultures, gender and sexualities studies and cultural studies. She is the author of Out of Bounds: Islands and the Demarcation of Identity in the Hispanic Caribbean (2008) and is completing a project on recent Cuban cultural production. She has also published articles on Caribbean and Jewish cultural production.  Professor Goldman has served as Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies/Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies and currently chairs the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dana Rabin specializes in the history of eighteenth-century Britain with an emphasis on crime, law, gender, and race. Her first book, Identity, Crime and Legal Responsibility in Eighteenth-Century England (Palgrave, 2004), examined the language of mental states in the English courtroom. Her recent book Britain and its Internal Outsiders 1750-1800: Under Rule of Law (Manchester University Press, 2017) analyzes the intersection of metropole and colony through a study of legal events involving criminal trials, law suits, legislation, and riot that unfolded inLondon in the second half of the eighteenth century.  Rabin's current project, "Jews, Suffrage, and the Color Line in the British Empire, 1740-1858," examines Jewish civil rights throughout the British Empire between passage of the Naturalization Act (or Plantation Act) in1740 and "Jewish Emancipation" 1858 when Jews received the right to vote in Britain. This multi-sited project takes note of the Empire's metropole and its colonial spaces, plantation societies and settler colonies, to study how definitions of race and religion shaped the lives of Jews and definitions of Jewishness and whiteness. She currently chairs the Department of History, formerly served as the Associate Director of the Program in Jewish Culture & Society, and has been a member of the Program’s Executive Committee for many years.

Stanley Mirvis’s research focuses on the social history of Jews in the early modern Atlantic—the “Western Sephardic Diaspora”—dealing largely with issues of Diasporic and creole identity. He contributed the historical essays to photographer Wyatt Gallery’s Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean (Schiffer Press, 2016) and is the co-editor of From Catalonia to the Caribbean: The Sephardic Orbit from Medieval to Modern Times (Brill, 2018), a collection of essays in honor of his doctoral advisor, Jane. S. Gerber. His forthcoming monograph is titled The Jews of Eighteenth-Century Jamaica: A Testamentary History of a Diaspora in Transition (Yale University Press, 2019), a social historical study of hundreds of last will and testaments exploring the relationship between colonial and metropolitan Jews and the nature of Jewish creolization in the British West Indies. Dr. Mirvis is the Harold and Jean Grossman Chair of Jewish Studies and an assistant professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies.