2010-2011 Grant Proposals
Pedagogy Travel Grant
Project Proposal:Travel to "Tribefest 2011"
I am writing to apply for a Stonehill College Center for Teaching and Learning Grant in order to help pay for my participation in the Tribefest 2011 conference. This is a non-academic conference dedicated to exploring Jewish identity and questions of social justice.
I regularly teach courses that engage with broad questions of ethnic identity, as well as a course that focuses more specifically on Jewish American identity. These include: Reading American Ethnicity, Hollywood Film and American National Identities, From Harlem to Hollywood in the Jazz Age, Race and American Film, and Hollywood and the Jews. In these courses I explore with students how questions of race and ethnicity have evolved in the 20th and 21st centuries. We regularly discuss, for instance, the longing for "roots" that became a broad cultural obsession beginning in the 1960s, as discussed by historian Matthew Frye Jacobson in Roots, Too, and the process Sociologist Mary Waters has called the "reinvention" of white ethnicity in recent decades through "ethnic options," by which white ethnics "return" to the ethnicities of earlier generations.
Tribefest 2011 would give me invaluable first-hand experience with these recent developments in American ethnicity, both providing content with which to work, and helping to inform my decisions about what and how to teach. The conference emerges directly out of these historical developments, and adds to them the anxiety held by many in the Jewish community that Jewish identity is gradually disappearing, not through anti-Semitism other external threats, but from the internal threats of assimilation, intermarriage, and indifference.
The Tribefest schedule is as disparate as Jewish identity itself, and reflects an intense desire to get youngish Jews excited about being Jewish, and thinking about Jewish identity in terms of social engagement. Topics range from the New Jewish Food Movement, to Israel and Palestine, to environmentalism, to the role of Jewish life in the democratic process. One can see in this small sampling of the conference's varied schedule ideas for moving beyond earlier models of Jewishness, and attempts to create new ways of being Jewish, in addition to a confusion about just what "Jewish" means.
Organizers are expecting over 2000 people at this event, which I find astonishing. I'm interested in who these people are, what draws them to the event, and in particular what all of this says about the state of Jewish American life. The event occurs in the wake of a report funded by the Avi Chai Foundation, "Generation of Change: How Leaders in Their Twenties and Thirties are Reshaping American Jewish Life," which describes a massive changing of the guard in Jewish leadership:
The report itself is a symptom of ongoing anxiety among Jewish establishment leaders about the future of Jewish American life, and the desire to spin things in a persistently hopeful direction. Given this, it will be fascinating to see where these hopes are currently grounded. The experiences provided by the conference would help enliven both my research and my teaching of these matters.
Community Outreach Plans:
I would be pleased to participate in outreach opportunities to share what I find in my work at the conference. I plan to write and publish about the experience of traveling to this conference, and would also welcome the opportunity to share what I find, and to discuss how this experience will have enhanced and informed my teaching, in a public forum, such as Academic Development Day, or a perhaps an event organized by the American Studies Program.
$750 to cover hotel, food, and travel costs for three nights at the conference.
Hotel will cost approximately $169/night (total $507)
Food stipend request: $50 a day (total: $150)
Travel costs: $50 for taxi to and from airport (total: $100)