The Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Jonathan Boyarin, began teaching at UNC in the fall semester 2007. Boyarin, an anthropologist and lawyer, has served as visiting professor at Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College and came to Carolina from the University of Kansas, where he was distinguished professor of Modern Jewish Studies. Boyarin received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1998, after receiving his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York in 1984.
His research and writing combine his backgrounds in anthropology and Yiddish culture to point toward new pathways in the study of Jewish culture. His first book, as co-editor, was From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry (1983 and 1998), which served as an introduction for younger, English-speaking Jews to first-hand accounts of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. This was followed by Polish Jews in Paris: The Ethnography of Memory (1991), based on his dissertation fieldwork in Paris, and by a volume on the life history of Yiddish scholar Shlomo Noble. Further ethnographic and critical essays, including some dealing with the contemporary Lower East Side in New York, were published in Storm from Paradise: The Politics of Jewish Memory (1992) and Thinking in Jewish (1996). He edited and contributed to The Ethnography of Reading (1993) and Remapping Memory: The Politics of TimeSpace (1994). With his brother, Daniel Boyarin, he co-edited Jews and Other Differences: The New Jewish Cultural Studies (1997). His interest in Zionism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and revaluation of diaspora in contemporary Jewish life is reflected in Palestine and Jewish History (1996) and (again with Daniel Boyarin) Powers of Diaspora (2002). His interests in the relation between Jewishness and legal theory resulted in a study published in the Yale Law Journal regarding a controversy surrounding a school board in a contemporary Hasidic community, in addition to a journal article on Jewishness, law, and psychoanalysis. He is currently working on a study and translation from Yiddish of the last book published by Abraham Joshua Heschel, while completing a manuscript on the relation between Jewish difference in late medieval Europe and the dynamics of the colonial encounter in Latin America.
Boyarin has given guest lectures at a number of outstanding universities and has presented papers on numerous occasions throughout the United States, Canada and England. He teaches courses on a range of topics, including "Contemporary Jewish Identities," "Studying Jews: Contemporary Approaches," and "Messiah and Modernity."