Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Engendering Activism: The Multiple Impacts of Latin American Jews

Oct. 24, 2019

By Dalia Wassner

HBI's Project on Latin American Jewish & Gender Studies will come together with the Latin American Jewish Studies Association to host "Engendering Activism: The Multiple Impacts of Latin American Jews," on Oct. 27. The workshop, to be held at HBI, will explore the role of Latin American Jews who have used the visual and performing arts, literature and activism to effect social and political change in their societies. By focusing on the combined Jewish and gendered participation of those individuals and groups, the workshop will broaden current research in the fields of Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Planned as a collaborative and dynamic meeting, the goal of the workshop will be to discuss papers, circulated in advance, that will be part of a dedicated issue of the soon-to-be-launched "Journal of Latin American Jewish Studies."Dalia Wassner, director of HBI Project on Latin American Jewish & Gender Studies and Adriana Brodsky, co-president of LAJSA and professor of history at St. Mary's College of Maryland, will serve as guest editors of this issue.

HBI is proud to feature to graduate students, Gina Malagold and Joanna Spyra, who were involved in a research capacity at HBI earlier in their careers. Malagold, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, came to HBI as a 2017 HBI Gilda Slifka Summer graduate intern. She worked with Dalia Wassner on research surrounding 20th-century trans-national Jews involved in the Mexican Renaissance. Malagold also worked on her own research project centered on Anita Brenner, an American who immigrated to Mexico and became a central cultural figure of the post-revolutionary milieu. At the upcoming workshop, Malagold notes that Brenner, and other women with whom she collaborated, had an acute sexual consciousness that allowed them to be the protagonists of their gender, identity and sexuality. She now asks: "What occurred in this specific historical moment to allow for the invention of the Mexican Jewish chica moderna?"

Joanna Spyra was a graduate student in Wassner’s 2018 course, Jews of Latin America, and received the 2018 HBI Graduate Student Prize for Outstanding Research on Jews and Gender for her MA thesis, "Ezras Noshim and Unruly Bodies: Disciplining Sexual Behavior of Jewish Immigrant Women in Argentina in 1936." Spyra is currently a PhD student at the University of Bergen in Norway. Spyra will continue her work on sex trafficking in 1930s Argentina while situating the discourse on white sex trade within the context of diaspora experiences of female bodies, highlighting issues of gender, (dis)ability, mental health and psychiatry.

Other participants in the conference include:

  • Daniela Goldfine, PhD, assistant pProfessor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Language at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls will address the representation of the topic of Jewish sex trafficking in Argentina on film, and the connection between popular memory and historical archives.
  • Stephanie Pridgeon, PhD, assistant professor of Spanish at Bates College, will explore how gender and Jewishness converge in film to inform individuals’ solidarity with revolutionary politics throughout Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on Cao Hamburger's "O ano em que meus pais saíram de férias" (Brazil, 2006), Guita Schyfter's "Novia que te vea" (Mexico, 1993), and Jeanine Meerapfel's El amigo alemán" (Argentina/Germany, 2012).
  • Judith Lang Hilgartner, PhD, a visiting assistant professor in the Hispanic Studies Department at Davidson College will explore narratives of alliance and distance with the mother figure in Ruth Behar's Lucky, Broken Girl" (2017) and Rebecca Walker's "Black, White, and Jewish" (2002), noting in both a negotiation of empowerment among Jewish women of color in a tumultuous, contradictory American society.

The morning workshop will be organized into two panels comprised of all conference participants, and the afternoon will be a luncheon and conversation open to friends and supporters of LAJGS and LAJSA, as we discuss the following prompt: How do we as academics conceive of our roles in terms of engagement with the broader community and vice-versa? What common ground can we find between the academy and the community writ large?

The workshop is co-sponsored by Brandeis University Near Eastern & Judaic Studies Department and International Business School.

Dalia WassnerDalia Wassner, PhD, is director, HBI Project on Latin American Jewish & Gender Studies.