Alexandria Digital Research Library

Contextualizing Diaspora : Studies in Jewish Emplacement, Social Construction, Materiality, and Memory

Hotary, Daniel Paul
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Religious Studies
Degree Supervisor:
Richard D. Hecht
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Religion and Judaic studies
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

This dissertation explores the experience of diaspora and traces how it appears, changes, and operates within Judaism. I present case studies that question issues such as origins, reflections on travel, and intergenerational conflict. Each study exposes gaps found in previous studies of diaspora and posits how certain aspects of the phenomenon can be reexamined. I explore these gaps with theoretical models that one would not necessarily associate with diaspora in order to better understand how diaspora operates. I argue that diaspora exists due to its imagined quality and necessity of having to be remembered, through juxtaposition of early Israel's archaeological and textual origins. From consideration of early Israel as partial indigenous peasantry to textual accounts locating Israel's cultural memory as originating elsewhere, a new dimension of diaspora emerges. Emplacements, both spatial and temporal, obscure diaspora, which is an ever-present condition originating as an act/commemoration of remembrance.

Another portion of my work confronts how one writes about travel, home, and homeland, especially once one has in fact physically returned; and asks, "To what shall one commit?" To answer these questions I look at representative examples of Hebrew fiction and later extend the scope of the investigation to look at more social-scientific and journalistic reflections in Israel. Many scholars studying the Jewish diaspora continue the prevalent understanding of physical homecoming to the Land as a fait accompli, which, according to some interpretations, prohibits creativity and presupposes an already achieved redemption. This approach, however, misunderstands the calls for continued alienation and separation, regardless of location, thus denying access to more ways in which diaspora exists. By employing the theoretical frameworks of the chronotope (time-space literary analysis), as well as threshold and liminal moments, I delve into the possibilities for uncovering recollections and making present unanticipated memories as offered at such moments of confrontation (with the Land, with a sight, a smell, a sound, etc.). Such individual and collective confrontation destabilizes that which has become taken-for-granted and thus renews creativity.

When applied to Israeli reflections on intergenerational belonging and outlook, while acknowledging physical emplacement, a tension results from the inability of succeeding generations to identify with and recount the motivations and passions of previous generations. Through writing from the situation of emplacement, we see societal cleavages, continued alienation, and renewed separation. Through an exploration of these gaps we are left asking the same questions of living individuals as we did of literature: "To what shall one commit, and how shall one commit, if at all?" The resulting intentional separation of confrontation that we see in these works makes the quotidian extraordinary and the already achieved something to be anticipated. I argue that the Land remains contingent, never accomplished, and is always in a state of "permanent revolution," thus placing into question notions as "post-Zionism." Even while being emplaced, possibilities exist for re-diasporization -- the need to feel distanced from the Land considered "home" in order to return to the condition prior to homecoming. This threshold that re-presents unforeseen memories is a call for ethical action now, and in the future, of the yet unredeemed, of being in imagined diaspora.

The fourth subset explores the ways in which Jewish genetic diseases are understood within Jewish communities and what genetics research offers in terms of complements to foundational myths of Judaism. In both diaspora studies and genetics research the history of the phenomenon and an understanding of what constitutes it offer different, but necessarily concomitant, myths/authoritative narratives. Through the continuing use of Walter Benjamin's call for contextualization across space and through time, I echo those who advocate for incorporating both the biological and socially constructed aspects of identity. This approach, rather than privileging one perspective, allows for a better understanding of migration, and acknowledges that genetic markers help place into question notions as kinship (to whom one feels connected), from what one feels displaced, etc., thus offering a more comprehensive view to constructed identity. We already always are displaced, have multiple homes, and struggle to articulate this complexity using only one paradigm. These concerns are reflected in the Jewish concept of brit (covenant), which includes both biology and social construction; only through the use of both aspects does a more comprehensive appreciation of "home," "origins," belonging, separation, and community/commitment emerge.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (320 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Daniel Hotary
File Description
Access: Public access
Hotary_ucsb_0035D_12898.pdf pdf (Portable Document Format)