Diaspora Conference


At Home Abroad: Diaspora and Homelands

Comparative Perspectives Workshop

Sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies &
the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

March 1, 2009

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Session 1: Diasporas and Homelands, Overview and Approach
Ilan Troen, Brandeis University
Gabi Sheffer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Session II: Creating, Developing and Sustaining Identity
Chair: Stephanie Gerber Wilson, Brandeis University

Khachig Tololyan, Wesleyan University
William Miles, Northeastern University & Brown University
Berna Turam, Hampshire College
Leonard Saxe, Brandeis University
Diamaid Ferriter, University College (Dublin) & Boston College

Session III: Remittances, Investment and Philanthropy
Chair: Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University

Liesl Riddle, George Washington University
Anna Ferro, Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (Italy)
Can Erbil, Brandeis University
Natan Aridan, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Charles Kadushin, Brandeis University & SUNY


Session IV: Diaspora and Homeland Cultures
Chair: Sylvia Barack Fishman, Brandeis University
Viet Thanh Nguyen, University of Southern California & Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Theodore Sasson, Brandeis University & Middlebury College
Robert Savage, Boston College


About the Speakers

Natan Aridan teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is managing editor of Israel Studies (Indiana University Press).  His scholarship is focused on Israel/Diaspora Relations and Israeli foreign policy.  His books include Britain, Israel and Anglo-Jewry, 1949-1957, (Routledge, 2004) and Israel Studies special volume “Israel-Diaspora Relations,” Vol. 10.1, 2005, co-edited with Gabi Sheffer.  He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israeli diplomatic representatives and Jewish communities in English-speaking countries between the years 1948-1967.

Can Erbil is assistant professor of Economics at Brandeis University.  His specializations include Development Economics, Economic Modeling, International Trade and Political Economy. He is also an expert on remittances and the Turkish Diaspora as well as cultural and identity issues.  His work in international trade and development economics focuses on trade liberalization, tax reforms, and macroeconomic policy recommendations in an open economy framework. In his research he employs advanced economic modeling tools such as CGE models and integrated modeling platforms, as well as intuitive and simple innovations such as the "debt burden index.” 

Diarmaid Ferriter is one of Ireland’s leading historians. A graduate of University College Dublin, he was a senior lecturer in History at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University from 1999 to 2008 and was appointed Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD in 2008. He is Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies at Boston College for the academic year 2008-2009. He has published extensively on nineteenth and twentieth century Irish history. His books include A Nation of Extremes: The Pioneers in twentieth century Ireland, (1999) Lovers of Liberty? Local Government in twentieth century Ireland (2001) The Irish Famine (with Colm Tóibín) (2002), the bestseller The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (2004), What if? Alternative views of twentieth century Ireland (2006) and the bestseller Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the life and legacy of Eamon de Valera (2007). He is a regular broadcaster with RTE radio and television, where he presents the weekly history program What if? on Radio One, and a contributor to newspapers including The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and Sunday Business Post. He lives in Dublin with his wife Sheila and two daughters.

Anna Ferro is a senior researcher at CeSPI (Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale). She is currently involved in the Fondazioni4Africa project in Italy and in Senegal. Funded in Italy by four bank foundations (Fondazione Cariplo, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Cariparma and San Paolo), the project aims to sustain development initiatives in Italy and Senegal and improve the channeling of remittances to Senegal. Four NGOs, two migrant associations and the research institute CeSPI are involved in the project.  Among the activities the project undertakes is one directed at channeling remittances into microfinance institutions in Senegal and another at training migrant associations in managing development projects in the origin country. http://www.cespi.it   She is also a consultant for the Policy and Research Division, Financial Sector team at DFID (Department for International Development of the UK government). She is co-editing the Migrant Remittances Newsletter, a joint USAID-DFID initiative. /www.microlinks.org/ev_en.php?ID=13069_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC

Sylvia Barack Fishman is professor of contemporary Jewish life, co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and a faculty affiliate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. Her newest book, "The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness," and her recent works, "Choosing Jewish: Conversations About Conversion" and "Double or Nothing? Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage," have created lively scholarly and communal discussion.
Fishman is the author of numerous articles on Jewish education, the American Jewish family, changing roles of Jewish women, and American Jewish literature, film and popular culture, as well as previous books: Follow My Footprints: Changing Images of Women in American Jewish Fiction; A Breath of Life: Feminism in the American Jewish Community; and Jewish Life and American Culture.

Charles Kadushin is professor emeritus in Sociology, Graduate Center, CUNY and distinguished scholar, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and visiting research professor, Sociology, Brandeis University. He has also taught at Columbia University in the Sociology and Social Psychology Departments and at Yale University in the School of Management and in Graduate Sociology. He is a consultant in organizational behavior, social networks and employee surveys for major international companies as well as for non-profit and non-governmental organizations.

William Miles is a member of the Political Science Department at Northeastern University. His areas of expertise are Comparative Politics, Political Development, and Political Culture. Among his publications are "Third World Views of the Holocaust," Journal of Genocide Research (2004); "Negritude and Judaism," Western Journal of Black Studies (1997); “Political Para-theology: Rethinking Religion and Politics and Democracy," Third World Quarterly (1996). Also, Professor Miles' book Zion in the Desert: American Jews in Israel’s Reform Kibbutzim (2007) was recently published by the State University of New York Press. He served as visiting research scholar at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in 1994, and was Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University from 1998-2002.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002). His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass. He has held residencies and scholarships at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. His short fiction has been published in Manoa, Orchid: A Literary Review, Best New American Voices 2007, A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection, Narrative Magazine, and Gulf Coast, where his story won the 2007 Fiction Prize. He is currently working on two book projects, a collection of short stories and a comparative study of American and Vietnamese memories and representations of the American war in Viet Nam, focusing on the literary and visual arts. He is currently a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

Liesl Riddle is associate professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University. She has written extensively about Diasporas and development, international entrepreneurship, and trade and investment promotion. She is a member of a United Nations’ advisory panel concerning Diaspora investment and entrepreneurship policies.  Riddle is the co-principle investigator of a multi-year research study, the Diaspora-Homeland Capital Investment Project, funded by the Center for International Business Education and Research.  She has conducted fieldwork in Egypt and Turkey and among Diaspora communities in the USA and Europe (Afghan, Armenian, Cuban, Ghanaian, Iranian, Liberian, and Palestinian communities).  Riddle is on the editorial board of two journals, Education Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues and the Journal of Education for Business. 

Jonathan Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and director of its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.  Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was chief historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life. He has written, edited, or co-edited more than twenty books, including the new A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew.  He is best known for the acclaimed American Judaism: A History.  Winner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award” in 2004, it has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”

Theodore Sasson is visiting research professor of Sociology at Brandeis University and associate professor of International Studies at Middlebury College. He is also senior research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, Brandeis University. Author of several books and articles in the fields of political sociology and criminology, Sasson's current work examines Israeli political culture and Israel-Diaspora relations. His recent articles include, A House Divided: Grassroots National Religious Perspectives on the Gaza Disengagement and Future of the West Bank with Ephraim Tabory (Journal of Church and State, 2007), and From Shrine to Forum: Masada and the Politics of Jewish Extremism with Shaul Kelner (Israel Studies, 2008).  His research interests include Political Sociology, Diaspora Studies, Israel State & Society, American Jewry, Social Problems and the Sociology of Punishment.

Robert Savage is co-director of the Boston College Irish Studies Program and teaches in the Department of History. He is the founder and curator of the Boston College Irish Film Series and serves on the editorial board of The Historian, The Irish Literary Supplement, and Film and Film Culture. His research has been funded by through fellowships and grants by the Leverhulme Trust of Great Britain, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, the Department of Education and Science, Ireland, the Irish-American Cultural Institute and the National University of Ireland, Galway.  Professor Savage is a member of the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Post Graduate Assessment Board. He has published three books addressing contemporary Irish history, his new monograph, A Loss of Innocence? Television and Irish Society will be published in 2010.

Leonard Saxe is professor of Jewish Community Research and Social Policy at Brandeis University. He serves as director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute. He is a social psychologist, as well as a methodologist, and is concerned with the application of social science to social policy issues. His present focus is on religious and ethnic identity and specifically addresses issues relevant to the Jewish community. Saxe's current research on the Jewish community involves socio-demographic studies of American Jewry and a program of research on Jewish education and its relationship to the Jewish engagement. He is the principal investigator of a longitudinal study of Birthright Israel, a large scale educational program. At the Steinhardt Institute, he is leading a program that is investigating the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population. Among his recent publications, he is co-author of a 2008 book, Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity, the story of Birthright Israel, an intensive ten-day educational program designed to connect Jewish young adults to their heritage. He is an author and/or editor of nearly 250 publications. He has been a Science Fellow for the United States Congress and was a Fulbright professor at Haifa University, Israel. In 1989, he was awarded the American Psychological Association’s prize for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, Early Career.

Gabriel (Gabi) Sheffer is a professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He served as director of The Jerusalem Group of National Planning at the Jerusalem Van Leer Foundation, director of The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and editor of the Jerusalem Journal for International Relations (English) and State, Government and International Relations (Hebrew). He was awarded the Prime Minister Prize for his biography of Moshe Sharett, and received the Israeli Political Science Association award for his book on Diasporas. He has edited two special issues of Israel Studies (Indiana University Press), including “An Army that Has a State,” Vol. 12(1) 2007 and “Israel and the Diaspora: New Perspective,” Vol. 10(1) 2005. Sheffer has published many books and articles on Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and on ethno-national Diasporas in general and on the Jewish Diaspora in particular, including Who Leads? On Israeli-Jewish Diaspora Relations (Hakibutz Hameuhad, 2006); Moshe Sharett, Biography of a Political Moderate (Oxford University Press, 1996); The National Security of Small States in a Changing World (Frank Cass, 1998); Israel: The Dynamics of Change and Continuity (Frank Cass, 1999); Middle Eastern Minorities and Diasporas (Sussex Academic Press, 2002); and Diaspora Politics: At Home Abroad (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Who Governs the Jewish People? Israeli-Diaspora Relations (Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 2006 [Hebrew]).

Khachig Tölölyan is professor of English at Wesleyan University. Professor Tololyan works in the field of modern fiction and contemporary critical theory. In addition, he edits the journal Diaspora and publishes on the topics of nationalism, trans-nationalism, ethnicity, Diaspora and international terrorism. He holds a PhD from Brown University.

Ilan Troen directs the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and is the Stoll Family Professor in Israel Studies at Brandeis University. Before joining Brandeis, he served as director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute and Archives in Sede Boker, Israel, and dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Ben-Gurion University.  Troen has authored or edited 11 books in American, Jewish and Israeli history. He is also the founding editor of Israel Studies (Indiana University Press), a leading international journal that publishes three issues annually on behalf of Brandeis and Ben-Gurion University. Publications relevant to the workshop are Troen, S. Ilan and Benjamin Pinkus, eds., Organizing Rescue; National Jewish Solidarity in the Modern Period (Frank Cass, 1992); Bade, Klaus J. and S. Ilan Troen, eds., Zuwanderung und Eingliederung von Deutschen und Juden aus der fruheren Sowjetunion in Deutschland und Israel, (Bonn: Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung, 1993), S. Ilan Troen and Klaus Bade, eds., Returning Home; Immigration and Absorption into their Homelands of Germans and Jews from the Former Soviet Union (Humphrey Institute for Social Ecology, 1994); Jewish Centers and Peripheries: European Jewry Between America and Israel 50 Years after World War II (1998); The Americanization of Israel (2001), with Glenda Abramson; Divergent Jewish Cultures: Israel and America (2001), with Deborah Dash-Moore.

Berna Turam, associate professor of sociology and Middle East studies at Hampshire College, is a political sociologist who uses ethnographic methods to explore state-society interaction in everyday life. She received her M.A. (1994-96) and Ph.D. (1996-2001) in sociology from McGill University. She holds two B.A. degrees in political science and sociology from Bosphorus University in Istanbul Turkey. She teaches courses on Islamic politics, Islam and democracy, civil society and the state, secularism, nationalism, and the Middle East. Her ethnographic work reveals patterns of negotiation between Islamic actors and states. She has done ethnographic research on Islamic, secular, ethnic and gender politics in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and North America. She is the author of Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford University Press, 2007). She published several articles in books and journals, including British Journal of Sociology and Nations and Nationalism. Her new research project is titled New Faces of America: Secular Muslims between Homeland and Hostland. It examines everyday practices of and challenges to democracy and nationhood in post 9/11 United States by exploring the daily life of Muslim actors.

Stephanie Gerber Wilson is the assistant director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Before joining the Schusterman Center, she worked for six years at Brandeis’ International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, where she managed Brandeis’ partnership with Al-Quds University. Wilson holds a Ph.D. in Israel studies from Brandeis University. Her dissertation was entitled "Cultural Citadel: Creating Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum."