Archives, Bedrooms, and the Future of Yiddish

zoharThis talk will present Zohar Weiman-Kelman’s ongoing project of generating an erotic Yiddish archive.  This archive, anchored in the potential of non-normative and non-reproductive sex(ualities), queerly celebrates Yiddish in the bedroom. Indeed, as Ann Cvetkovich writes, the bedroom is the space of the queer archive. Broadening the implications of identifying the archive with the bedroom, this talk will look at two archival projects that set out to collect sexual vocabulary in Yiddish, one from the early stages of the language and one from its later (and perhaps final) stages. It will then consider how the language of sexuality offers an alternative mode of accessing history and making space for it in the present. Finally, Weiman-Kelman will examine how the queer Yiddish archive reorients Derrida’s view of the archive as “a movement of the promise and of the future no less than recording the past,” by calling into question the coming of the future. She suggests that like queer sex, the queer Yiddish archive can breed new histories, and give us pleasure now.

Zohar Weiman-Kelman holds the Anne Tanenbaum Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. She was born and raised in West Jerusalem, where she received her B.A. in Hebrew and Yiddish literature. She completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at UC Berkeley in 2012. Her research has led her to learn Yiddish, German and Polish, and she is deeply engaged in queer and feminist communities in Berlin, Warsaw and Israel/Palestine. Zohar is currently completing her first book manuscript, “What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting: Jewish Women’s Poetry 1880-1990.” This work brings together queer theory’s questioning of futurity with the challenge posed by Yiddish to reproductive heteronormative cultural transmission, to tell a new story of the Jewish past. She has also begun a new project, “Philology, Sexology, and the Future of Yiddish,” looking at the intersections of Yiddish language and sexuality.

This talk is free and open to the public. Organized by the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature.

Update Nov. 3: event audio recording now available here and also below! Please note, recording starts about 1 minute into the talk (apologies).