Conference Yiddishism: Mythologies and Iconographies

The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Paris Yiddish Center and Medem Library invite paper proposals for an international conference, Yiddishism: Mythologies and Iconographies, which will take place at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, 15–16 November 2015.

Literary critic Naftole Vaynig observed in his essay The Myth of Yiddishism (1932) that modern Yiddish culture was in need of a myth that “would not only personify or incarnate the ideas of the movement, but also serve as a road map, and produce an incentive to stimulate activities at both personal and interpersonal levels, giving the Yiddishist movement legitimacy and a raison d'être.” 

Emerging in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century, Yiddishism sought to establish Yiddish as a Jewish national language and to fight for its cultural validity both internally, within the multilingual Jewish community, and externally, with respect to non-Jewish cultures. The construction and propagation of yiddishist myths was a key strategy in the quest for legitimization and consolidation of that movement. The making of what can be termed a “yiddishist mythology” was at work in the production of both high and popular Yiddish culture, in philological, ethnological and historical research, in literary criticism and in everyday practices. Some of these phenomena, such as the myth of the shtetl or the mythologization of the Czernowitz Conference, have already been researched, while others have received little scholarly attention.

The “Yiddishism: Mythologies and Iconographies” conference will take a critical look at the creation, propagation and transformation of Yiddishist myths from the late 19th century up to the present. We welcome submissions of papers in Yiddish or English dealing with historical and literary narratives that emerged around certain personalities, objects, social practices, events or institutions; papers analyzing mechanisms of mythologization within the social imaginary and its canon-building agencies (including schools, research institutions, museums, associations and societies). The papers may deal with diverse fields of political and cultural activities, as well as visual and discursive practices. Within the visual arts, this may include applied arts, design, art collections and photography; and among discursive practices; literature, literary criticism, cultural and social discussions and school curricula, political programs and agendas, social diagnosis, research projects and paradigms.

Conference co-organizers are Karolina Szymaniak (The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute), Natalia Krynicka (Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library), Tal Hever-Chybowski (Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library).

The conference committee: Prof Mikhail Krutikov (Michigan University), Dr Yitskhok Niborski (INALCO), Prof. Simon Neuberg (Univesität Trier), Prof. Eugenia Prokop-Janiec (Jagiellonian University), Dr. Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov (Polish Academy of Sciences).



Scholars interested in presenting a paper should send an abstract (300 words) and a short bio statement (200 words) by 4 May 2015to Applications must be either in Yiddish or in English. Decisions and notifications of acceptance will be sent by the15th May 2015.

A limited number of scholarships will be allocated to cover a portion of travel and accommodation costs. These scholarships are meant especially for young scholars and students from Central and Eastern Europe. Please indicate in your application if you would also like to be considered for a scholarship.

The Yiddishism: Mythologies and Iconographies is a part of The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute’s project concerning the Yiddishist intelligentsia in the Polish lands run by the Institute’s Yiddish Culture Department.  The conference partners are The Polish Association for Yiddish Studies and The Michal Friedman Foundation for Yiddish and Hebrew Literatures in Poland.


The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute

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The Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library 

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The Polish Association for Yiddish Studies

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The Michal Friedman Foundation

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15 November 2015 - 16 November 2015