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Located between Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, which merged 2012 in one Institute of the University of Potsdam, the Chair of Religious Studies and Jewish Thought dedicates itself besides general topics in the field of Religious Studies mainly to the analysis of Jewish thought and Jewish cultures of knowledge from the Middle Ages to the modern era. The approach of research is non-confessional but rather secular, informed by history and cultural studies. One special concern is the research of Jewish-Christian relations in different contexts and cultures. Another is the creation of a permanent focus on “Sephardic Studies”, dealing with the history and culture of Iberian Jews both on the Iberian Peninsula and in the so-called Western Sephardic Diaspora.
This topic is of huge relevance, since the research of Sephardic Jewry cannot be considered a special “Iberian” or “Jewish issue” alone. Rather it is of central importance for the whole history of medieval philosophy and the development of early modern bodies of knowledge. Further, newer research stresses the importance of the role of “conversos” (baptized Sephardim and their descendents some of whom secretly continued to live as Jews) in the development of pre-modern identities, cultural hybrids and early modern forms of religious skepticism. With this new focus on “Sephardic Studies”, the University of Potsdam joins and enriches the current research on these topics, which is mainly conducted in Spain, the United States and Israel. It also hopes to reach out to students interested in Spanish or Portuguese language, the Iberian Peninsula and/or Latin America.
Through the qualifications of the current chair holder, doctorate and habilitation projects in Religious and Jewish Studies, as well as the field of Jewish history, are possible and encouraged. At the same time, the chair cooperates closely with the School of Jewish Theology.