Jewish Studies Research Focus Group

Established in 2006-2007, the Jewish Studies Research Focus Group is composed of graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments and programs at UC Santa Barbara whose research focuses on three areas of scholarship: Judaism as a religious tradition, modern critical Jewish thought, and trauma, catastrophe and memory.

Few programs in Jewish Studies have the strengths provided by our Department of Religious Studies whose teaching and research interests turn around not only the history of religious traditions, but also on the theories and methods used to study religion (and with faculty members Randall Garr, Barbara Holdrege, Roger Friedland, and Richard Hecht doing research on various components of Judaism as a religious tradition). Similarly, interest in critical Jewish thinkers, like Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Edmund Jabès, and Emmanuel Levinas along with significant writers like Proust, Kafka, Roth, and several Israeli modern Hebrew writers, all seem to make significant contributions to critical theory in many disciplines and are represented in the research and teaching of several faculty members, including Elisabeth Weber (German, Slavic, and Semitic Studies and Comparative Literature) and Wolf Kittler (German, Slavic and Semitic Studies), Thomas Carlson (Religious Studies), Roger Friedland (Religious Studies and Sociology), Giles Gunn (English and Global and International Studies), and Russell Samolsky (English). Our faculty research and teaching strengths in trauma, catastrophe and memory arise from the Holocaust, but are not the same as Holocaust Studies. Faculty interested in these issues include Susan Derwin (German, Slavic, and Semitic Studies and Comparative Literature), Janet Walker (Film and Media Studies), Harold Marcuse (History), and Volker Welter (History of Art and Architecture, especially how memory of European Jewish culture comes to impact Zionist architecture in Palestine).

The Jewish Studies Research Focus Group devotes one quarter during the academic year to each of these three areas, beginning in the Fall with Judaism as a religious tradition, Winter with critical Jewish thinkers, and Spring with trauma, catastrophe, and memory. There are three meetings held each quarter – one devoted to a faculty research paper from one of the members of the RFG, one meeting devoted to an advanced graduate student paper, and a presentation from a visitor.

For additional information, please contact:

Richard Hecht
Department of Religious Studies

Susan Derwin 
Department of Germanic, Slavic, and Semitic Studies and 
Comparative Literature