The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Navigating Communicative Fields: Jewish Women and the Place of Writing

Inspired by the example of Jewish women, who inhabited a liminal communicative space – both part of a culture in which writing is central and not completely integrated into the center of this writing culture – and recognizing the utmost importance of such liminal communicative spaces in today’s complex societies, I will investigate how contemporary individuals navigate between different communicative fields, each involving a coherent set of practices, a symbolic system and a material substratum. Following the steps of Berliner sociologist Georg Simmel, I will delineate the social type of the “communicative wanderer” – resembling his “stranger” – and move on to examine the experiences of Brazilian Jewish woman such as Branca Dias and Dina Sfat in the arts and education. My empirical research will focus on the contemporary lives of Brazilian persons, Jews and non-Jews, female or not, who in different areas of cultural life take upon themselves the task of communicative translators. I will do that using a combination of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and a type of sociological inquiry that draws on the literary and the philosophical. The role of such translators is a crucial one in the present times when our communicative realms seem to be impermeable to one another. Circumscribing my research to one particular country but finding commonalities across different contexts within that country, I expect to illuminate a singular feature of our complex communicative dilemmas.