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3 Social Structure of the Soviet Shtetl

Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

In 1924, the Soviet ethnographer Vladimir Bogoraz, better known by his pseudonym V. G. Tan, led an ethnographic expedition to some of the shtetls of Ukraine. Bogoraz’s report on the expedition, published in 1926 as The Jewish Shtetl in Revolution, jubilantly celebrated the victory of socialism during the first decade of the Revolution: “Socialist construction has taken off completely among the Jews,” who, he continued, were working as “stonemasons, coachmen, carpenters, bathhouse attendants, street beggars, ex-convicts, prostitutes, pimps, an entire mass of petty and even pettier traders and, as if to make up for it, two or three wealthy people.” Bogoraz contrasted this situation with the prerevolutionary shtetl, where there lived “Jewish holy people, prophets, and soothsayers; women walked around in wigs; men in long caftans. Elderly people spent the last years of their lives in synagogues in prayer and Bible reading.”1 Bogoraz was, in many ways, returning home—he had left his hometown of Ovruch, where he was born the son of a Jewish schoolteacher in 1865, in order to attend a gymnasium in Taganrog. There, he had become a revolutionary activist in the People’s Will Party, a crime for which he was imprisoned and exiled to Siberia. In Siberia, he became interested in the Chukchi peoples, studying their folklore and anthropology, and eventually emerging as one of the most prominent ethnographers of his era—beginning in 1897 he collaborated with Franz Boas on the Jesup North Pacific Expedition across the Bering Strait, for five years. After the Revolution, Bogoraz returned to St. Petersburg, where he became a professor of ethnology at the Leningrad Geographical Institute. It was in this capacity that he led his 1924 expedition to the region in which he was born. His optimistic impressions of the pace of revolutionary change, though, were tempered by ambivalence about the social costs of change, as he observed stonemasons and carpenters coexisting with pimps and beggars. Indeed, despite the impetus to celebrate the achievements wrought by a decade of communist rule, Bogoraz and his team could not but note the sorry economic state of the contemporary Soviet shtetl.

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Chapter 2: Spiritualism

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

To many people, the idea of possession by an alien entity is a frightening one, because the word conjures up stories of malevolent, demonic intrusion. Actually, though, the experience does not always involve evil spirits. Quite often, instead, the beings in question are kindly, helpful, or, at most, dangerous. As to the reasons why there should be such a variety of traditions about this experience, we have to turn briefly to the history of human cultural evolution.1

The whole complex of possession and the rituals concerning it must be quite old, judging from the fact that the tradition is so widely distributed. It is known, for example, to horticulturalists, as we saw with the Ynomamö (see chap. 1), where the medicine men invited the spirits into their chests. The horticulture of the Ynomamö Indians is a very ancient form of cultivation, arising directly from the original style of subsistence of all humankind, that of hunting and gathering. It survives to this day as a sophisticated adaptation to tropical rain forests, for instance in South America. Its name derives from the Latin word hortus, “garden,” because instead of open fields these societies work small, gardenlike plots. The area for the gardens is burned over and yields a harvest only for about three years. That forces horticulturalist societies to be on the move all the time, and their villages are not permanent. Such mobility necessitates a constant close interaction with their surroundings, their natural habitat, which demands flexibility and adaptiveness. Quite logically, their ethical system is also based on appropriateness, for they cannot afford the rigidity of a world view that is based on the cleavage between good and evil. It follows that their spirits are adaptable, too; they are neither good nor evil, they are simply powerful. In Japan, the only large modern state with strong ties to horticulturalist tradition, spirits of this nature tend to predominate in possession, as we shall see in chapter 5.

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2. The Hermeneutics of the Self

Brian Gregor Indiana University Press ePub

In Book XI of his Confessions, Augustine records his perplexity over the nature of time. What is it? We talk about it all the time in our everyday conversations, as if we know what it is. “What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know. If I want to explain it to an inquirer, I do not know.”1 Something similar is true about the self: in late modern Western culture, we talk about selves—and “the self”—all the time. In the natural attitude the idea of the self seems fairly unproblematic, yet if we stop and ask what the self is, we find ourselves at a loss. What then is the self? What is it? The question at hand is ontological: what sort of being is the self?

First, we must recognize that the notion of a self or the self has not always been part of the philosophical tradition. Charles Taylor observes that when ancient philosophers cited the Delphic admonition to “know thyself” (gnothi seauton), they did not assume a robust conception of this self as an entity, as ho autos. By using reflexive pronouns and verbs we are able to designate self-reference in thoughts and actions, but it is another matter to speak of the self as a noun.2 That is a modern innovation,3 and there is no consensus that it is a sign of progress. The modern concept of the self has a strong chorus of critics, whose objections are familiar: the modern self is shaped by false ideals regarding knowledge and ethics; it purports to ground itself through its act of self-reflection; it reifies itself as a substantial thing, a subjectum that supposedly remains self-identical through time and its relations to exteriority. As a result, the modern picture of the self is an egocentric, isolated, ahistorical, disembodied, and disengaged thinking subject. These objections have been repeated many times, to the point that critique often verges on caricature, but there are nevertheless good philosophical and theological reasons to be suspicious of the modern concept of the self. This concept distorts our understanding of the human being and its relations—to God, other humans, the natural world, and itself. Critique is therefore necessary, and in subsequent chapters I will show how the cross provides a critique of—and in a certain sense even destroys—the self. However, the best way to correct the modern metaphysics of subjectivity is not to discard the notion of the self altogether, but to reorient our inquiry as a hermeneutics of the self.

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7 Enabling Immanence: Prayer in a Time of Divine Hiddenness

Shai Held Indiana University Press ePub


In his essay “On Prayer,” published in 1970, Heschel speaks again of the centrality of self-transcendence to the act of prayer. He writes that in prayer, “I leave the world behind as well as all interests of the self. Divested of all concerns, I am overwhelmed by only one desire: to place my heart upon the altar of God.”1 Prayer, Heschel insists, “must never be a citadel for selfish concerns but rather a place for deepening concern over other people’s plight.”2 And in one of his more poignant formulations, he avers that “in order to be human, one must be more than human.”3 But in this essay, Heschel’s deepest concerns lie elsewhere. At its heart, “On Prayer” is a meditation on the dynamics and significance of prayer in an age of divine hiddenness.4

“The fundamental statement about God in Judaism,” Heschel writes elsewhere, is that “God is in search of man”; this bold statement, he insists, can be said to “summarize all of human history as seen in the Bible.”5 And yet, as we have seen, human beings consistently ignore and defy God’s call. God’s interaction with Adam and Eve in the garden is paradigmatic for much of human history: human beings hide from the God who seeks them. But God finds this situation intolerable, and He turns away from humanity even as we turn away from Him. Thus, humanity’s stubborn defiance has led to a calamitous cosmic predicament: the world is plagued by a kind of double-concealment in which humanity’s hiding leads God to hide in turn. Heschel laments that “God is hiding and man is defying. At every moment God is creating and self-concealing.”6

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9. De Beauvoir and the Myth of the Given

Edited by Morny Joy Indiana University Press ePub

Nature is always value-less, but has been given value at some time, as a present—and it is we who gave and bestowed it. Only we have created the world that concerns man.


Man created woman—but what out of? Out of the rib of his God, of his ideal.


In 1980, Feminist Studies published an article by Michèle Le Doeuff that invigorated debate about the originality of Simone de Beauvoir as a philosopher in her own right, beyond her reputation as a follower of Sartre. In “Simone de Beauvoir and Existentialism,” Le Doeuff claimed that Beauvoir’s approach effectively turns Sartrean existentialism on its head. Observing that it is not enough for Sartrean theory “to pass from a man’s to a woman’s hands to change from the phallocentic discourse it had hitherto been into the theoretical tool of a feminist investigation,” Le Doeuff maintains that Beauvoir “operates a series of transformations on the existential problematic,” the first and foremost being the transposition of existential worldview “from the status of a system . . . to that of a point of view orientated to a theoretical intent by being trained on a determinate and partial field of experience”—to wit, that of women (Le Doeuff 1980, 283). The effect of this transformation is revolutionary: whereas the existential ethic, according to Le Doeuff, “has the effect of expelling from the sphere of the person every possible determination, projecting them on to the exterior plane of the situation that is to be transcended,” Beauvoirean perspectivism allows that “exteriority” may act as an obstacle to transcendence, a constraint on subjectivity, a grounds for alienation (Le Doeuff 1980, 284). Whereas existentialism demands “an annihilation of every anthropological determinedness,” excluding in principle an existential anthropology, Beauvoir restores the anthropological problematic (Le Doeuff 1980, 284). Theorizing a relationship between “internal” states and “external” constraints, Beauvoir explores the questions that have dominated feminist philosophy ever since: questions about the meaning and significance of becoming a woman.

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1. Luke 22:15

Kierkegaard, Søren Indiana University Press ePub

[ 1 ]

Father in heaven! We know well that you are the one who enables both willing and completing1 and that longing, when it draws us to renew communion with our Savior and Atoner [Forsoner],2 is also from you. But when the longing lays hold of us, oh that we may also lay hold of the longing; when it wants to carry us away, that we may also abandon ourselves; when you are near to us in the call, that we may also keep near to you in supplication; when you offer the highest in the longing, that we may also buy its opportune moment,3 may hold it fast, sanctify it in quiet hours by earnest thoughts, by pious resolves, so that it may become the strong but also well-tested heartfelt longing that is required of those who worthily want to partake of the holy meal of the Lord’s Supper! Father in heaven, the longing is your gift; no one can give it to himself, no one can buy it if it is not given, even if he were willing to sell all4—but when you give it, then he can surely sell all in order to buy it. So we pray for those who are gathered here that they may go up to the Lord’s table today with heartfelt longing and that when they leave there, they may go away with increased longing for him our Savior and Atoner.

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6 The Self That Transcends Itself: Heschel on Prayer

Shai Held Indiana University Press ePub


Heschel’s final work, A Passion for Truth (1973), is a vivid portrayal of the Hasidic master Reb Menahem Mendl of Kotzk (1787–1859), known above all for his zealous pursuit of truth and integrity in the religious life. One of the central preoccupations of both the Kotzker and his biographer is their insistence that falsehood and self-centeredness are inextricably linked, and that so, too, are truth and self-transcendence.1 For Menahem Mendl, there is no greater spiritual and theological problem than humanity’s obstinate self-concern. “The ‘I’,” Heschel writes, “becomes the central problem in the Kotzker’s thinking; it is the primary counterpart to God in the world. The sin of presumptuous selfhood is the challenge and defiance that God faces in the world.”2 The Kotzker had “contempt for the self-centeredness of man,” and he demanded “the abandonment of all self-interest.”3 He insisted, in fact, that an authentic quest for truth is predicated on a “total abandonment of self.”4 To strive to be a Jew, the Kotzker taught, is “to disentangle the self from enslavement to the self ” and to struggle against “the inexhaustible intransigence of self-interest.” Indeed, “for the Kotzker, one became an authentic Jew only when he moved out of the prison of self-interest, responding with abandon to Heaven’s call.” To have faith, the Kotzker taught, “meant to forget the self, to be exclusively intent on God,”5 and to “disregard self-regard.”6

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11 The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Ecology Movement in Thailand

KATHLEEN M ADAMS Indiana University Press ePub

Susan M. Darlington

A Buddhist ecology movement, developing in Thailand and other Buddhist nations, addresses local and national problems of deforestation and ecological destruction. While this is only one aspect of the growing environmentalism in Thailand (Hirsch 1996), the Buddhists involved in this movement see their religion as critical for providing practical as well as moral guidelines for ecological conservation. This focuses on how Buddhists, especially monks, put their concepts of Buddhism and ecology into action, and the consequent reinterpretations of both sets of concepts that result from such behavior. As Buddhism is increasingly used to promote social activism such as conservation, its role in Thai society is also being implicitly challenged and reworked. While the exact changes that will occur are unknown, the Buddhist ecology movement’s potential direction may be glimpsed by examining how rituals, particularly ordaining trees, promote the ecology movement, lending it economic, political, social, and moral force.

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Slouching toward Zion

Robert Flynn University of North Texas Press PDF

Slouching toward Zion j


Thurston Morton was the kind of Baptist who when he said

“thirty-ought-six,” he expected everyone to understand what he meant. Elaine was raised in the Church of Christ and when she said Acts 2:38, she expected everyone to understand what she meant.

However, when Elaine reached puberty she became a Baptist because the Baptist Church had something every night.

Giving Elaine an excuse to go out every night. Best of all, her

Church of Christ parents wanted to hear nothing about Baptist meetings, which meant they would never know where she went or who she was with. When she and Thurston became engaged,

Thurston’s buddies warned him that Elaine had dated every male in Chillicothe. “Chillicothe’s not that big,” he said. Five others, including the halt and the married.

Elaine had proved to be a good wife—silent in church, faithful at work, obedient at home—the way the Good Book said. All she asked was that some day they take a trip and

Thurston promised some day they would.

Thurston worked at the grain elevator in the summer and the gin in the fall and listened to radio preachers who promised that God would prosper him if he would prosper them. And

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Testimonial Time in the Baptist Church

Robert Flynn University of North Texas Press PDF

Testimonial Time in the Baptist Church j

Sunday night meant testifying at the Chillicothe Baptist Church and folks who weren’t Baptists came to see what their Christian brethren had been up to. Testifying gave a whole new meaning to the expression, “No news is good news.”

After singing, praying and a short (for him) sermon, Brother

Wachel opened the floor to those who wished to bear testimony to what the Lord had done for them.

With a husky voice Butch Trulove testified that his mother’s dying words to him were, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

After she died, he tried to drown his sorrow in a whiskey bottle. Late one night he left a bar and a piece of paper blew up against his foot. He picked it up and it was a tract with the words, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Butch recognized it as a message his mother had sent from the grave. “And that’s why I’m in church tonight,” Butch said.

Folks nodded politely but in West Texas sin tracts were as common as cactus. Baptists believed Butch started drowning in a bottle before his mother took sick. Methodists believed turning fifty had cured Butch of more sins than Jesus had.

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14 Jewish Working Prisoners

Yitzhak Arad Indiana University Press ePub

The lack of a permanent and experienced cadre of Jewish prisoners to carry out the physical work involved in the extermination process, and the daily murder of some of those already engaged in this work and their replacement by others taken from the newly arriving transports, caused a constant disruption and slowdown of the liquidation activities in the camps. Realizing the source of the problem, the camp authorities in each camp decided to turn the temporary Jewish prisoner work force into a permanent one. According to this plan, each Jewish prisoner would belong to a particular working group and would become a specialist in the work he was assigned. These people would be kept working as long as they were fit and selections and executions would continue for those who became too weak or too ill to keep up to the required pace.

The first camp in which such a change was instituted was Sobibor, in May/June 1942. Moshe Bahir, who arrived in Sobibor at that time with a transport of Jews from Zamosc, wrote:

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SIX “Should a Good Muslim Cover Her Face?” Pilgrimage, Veiling, and Fundamentalisms in Cameroon • JOSÉ C. M. VAN SANTEN

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

The issue of veiling in sub-Saharan Africa has received little attention. Perhaps that is because most women as well as men, Christians as well as Muslims, have used various types of head coverings as indicative of social distinctions as well as protection against the sun. However, in recent decades in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa, veiling as a form of religious expression has emerged in juxtaposition with modernity, politics, and laïcité (Van Santen 2010b). Veiling is now associated with particular ideas, events, and actions that link important aspects of social life and can alter during the course of a woman’s life (Van Santen 2010a). In this chapter, I explore one such change in women’s veiling practices, namely the pilgrimage to Mecca, the (hajj), one of the five pillars of Islam. What influence does going on hajj have on women’s veiling practices in Cameroon?

Globalization and increased cash flow have meant that more Muslim women are able to go on the hajj. On their return, these women are allowed to carry the prestigious title of alhadzja. Although Saudi Arabia does not allow Cameroonian women to make a pilgrimage to Mecca on their own (meaning without a husband), organizers of the hajj have found ways to bypass this rule. Thus women from various ethnic backgrounds and social classes arrive in Mecca and are confronted with new notions of what a “good” Muslim should look like. Some female pilgrims return home with a black face-covering veil (niqāb), intending to begin wearing it on their return. Others consider their usual way of veiling sufficient. In the past non-Muslim women wore a simple headtie, and Muslim women would add an extra piece of cloth in the same color as their gowns. However, after women go on hajj, the choice of veiling can become a significant issue and a topic for discussion.

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1. The Voice of a Native Informer: Salomon Maimon Describes Life in Polish Lithuania / Liliane Weissberg

Edited by Andreas Kilcher and Gabriella Indiana University Press ePub

Salomon Maimon Describes Life in Polish Lithuania


The discipline of ethnography, writing—graphein—about ethnicity as scholarly endeavor, is an invention of the late eighteenth century, when descriptions of peoples, their customs, and their cultures began to flourish. Of course, travel accounts of foreign lands and their populations existed earlier, as well as descriptions of foreign customs and lifestyles, but it was only in the late eighteenth century that these texts were viewed as “scientific,” as part of a scholarly discipline, or Wissenschaft.

Early scientific literature in this field was mostly written in German. The historian Gerhard Friedrich Müller took part in the second Kamchatka Expedition (1733–1743) and issued descriptions of various peoples and tribes.1 His account may be the first detailed description of a foreign encounter cast for a reading public at home. August Ludwig von Schlözer published his Vorstellung einer Universalgeschichte (Introduction to Universal History) in 1772, and his colleague at the University of Göttingen, Johann Christoph Gatterer, translated his genealogical knowledge into his own version of world history.2 Both authors aimed to expand historical and geographical knowledge by turning to the East. While Müller still sought to describe peoples, or engage in “Völker-Beschreibung” (1740),3 these scholars began to coin terms that would name the emerging discipline and separate it from the already existing field of history. The new research would be named ethnographia (1767–1771), Völkerkunde (1771–1775), or ethnologia (1781–1783).4

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The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism

Martin Heidegger Indiana University Press ePub


[Outlines and Sketches for a Lecture, Not Held, 1918–1919]


The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism 1

The formulation is ambiguous. Phenomenological research into religious consciousness is the driving problem and method. This means: 1. (negatively) renunciation of constructive philosophy of religion, 2. (negatively) non-absorption in the purely historical as such, 3. tracing back to the genuinely clarified and genuinely originally seen phenomena to pure consciousness and its constitution. But herein lies the problem: gaining and understanding such phenomena in the first place out of the historical—this and its facticity in phenomenological primordial understanding.

In regard to this principal original tendency—and this is the only genuinely scientific one—the announced [project] involves a limitation in several respects, and indeed precisely when we become conscious of the ambiguities. First of all, turning to this, there arise:

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3. Faith, Substance, and the Cross

Brian Gregor Indiana University Press ePub

In the previous chapter we discussed Charles Taylor’s claim that human beings are self-interpreting animals. As we saw, self-interpretation is a matter of strong evaluation, a second-order evaluation of oneself. Are my desires, goals, and commitments good? Am I living the way I should? Is it good that I “am”? We evaluate ourselves, in this strong sense, within a horizon of significance—i.e., a set of background assumptions regarding what is good, meaningful, and valuable. Moreover, this strong evaluation takes place before some authority. The category of “existence before” is therefore essential to becoming a self. I experience myself as responsible, answerable, accountable to some authority for who I am and what I do. This authority might be another self, a community, an institution; it might be a code or principle; it might be my own conscience. In this chapter, and for much of this book, our concern will be the category of existence before God (coram Deo). To begin, then, I offer a few remarks on why this category is the ultimate horizon of strong evaluation, and thus for becoming a self.

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