Professor David Purdie: David Daiches – a life, 5 October 2016, 1-2pm, IASH, University of Edinburgh

One of the finest literary scholars of the 20th century, David Daiches combined mastery of the history and practice of literary criticism with wit and eloquence both at the podium and on the printed page. He produced creative literature of his own, not least in Two Worlds his memoirs of a Jewish childhood in Edinburgh and, in A Third World, his later academic life in the US. He made his mark, however, as a teacher, critic and historian of English literature. The son of Rabbi Salis Daiches, he was educated at George Watson’s College and Edinburgh University before going south to a Fellowship at Balliol where he later completed his Doctorate on the Hebrew sources of the King James Bible. In 1937, having gone to Chicago University as assistant professor of English, he left for New York in 1943 to work for the British Information Service (an arm of MI6) before becoming 2nd Secretary at our Embassy in Washington DC. Here has was a colleague of Sir Isaiah Berlin under the coldly patrician gaze of Lord Halifax. After the war, Daiches and his family went to Cornell University, in Ithaca, NY as Professor of English, before returning to the UK in 1951 as Lecturer in English at Jesus College, Oxford. He produced a stream of literary biographies on such as Milton, R.L. Stevenson, Scott and Robert Burns – as well as his masterly A Critical History of English Literature. He retired to Edinburgh in 1977 after more than a decade as Head of English at Sussex University and became an early Director of IASH at his alma mater. He died in 2004, full of years and honours having rounded off his remarkable career with such works as A Companion to Scottish Culture – and on one of its more sobering ingredients; Scotch Whisky… In this lecture, Professor David Purdie will review the life and works of David Daiches, drawing out his contributions to literary scholarship as well as to the development of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

British Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference 2017, Edinburgh 10-12 July 2017

Jews on the Move: Exploring the movement of Jews, objects, texts, and ideas in space and time

Bookmark the Conference Website:

We gratefully acknowledge the following grants received in support of the conference:

Call for Papers:

From the earliest accounts travel and migration, movement across space and time characterise Jewish history. No less crucial than the movement of people is the movement of texts, objects, and ideas, which travel both physically and intellectually as generations in distant locations engage with these at different times and places. Jews themselves are associated with travel and migration, historically and in cultural production. This conference invites contributions of papers and panel proposals within the broad theme of the conference. What follows is a list of thematic headings which is indicative, but not exhaustive:

  • Jews and migration
  • Jews in / and the archive
  • Texts which move
  • Jewish journeys, journeys of Jews
  • Literary explorations of travel, movements, and migration and their consequences
  • Displaying Jews: museums, heritage, art
  • Jewish objects: from vernacular and ritual to display and memory

As usual with BAJS conferences, papers on topics unrelated to the conference theme are also welcome, including proposals by graduate students wishing to present on their doctoral research.

Travel bursaries for postgraduate students from outwith the UK can be applied for at a later date.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Professor Charlotte Hempel (Birmingham): People and ideas on the move: the evidence from Qumran
  • Professor Tony Kushner (Southampton): Jews as refugees: special or not?
  • Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (New York / Warsaw): Expanded Geography: An Epilogue to the History of Polish Jews at POLIN Museum
  • Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher (Tel Aviv): To Move, to Translate, To Write: Jewish American Immigrant Voices

Paper proposals should include an abstract of no more than 300 words and a speaker biography of 100 words max.

Panel proposals should include a rationale for the panel of no more than 500 words, abstracts of 300 words max for each paper proposed as part of the panel and speaker biographies of no more than 100 words.

Speakers are allocated 30min for their presentation and questions following the paper. Usually papers are c.20min in length, allowing for 10min of questions and discussion.

Please send paper and panel proposals and all conference-related correspondence to:

Deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals:

  • 31 January 2017.

Confirmation of acceptance of proposals will be emailed by 31 March 2017.

Conference booking will open in mid-April.

All catering provided at the conference will be vegetarian. If you are unable to eat a vegetarian diet please email with your dietary requirements by 3 April 2017. Please be aware, that we are unable to guarantee at this point that we will be able to cater for your specific dietary needs.

Workshop: ‘Arab Jews: Concepts, Histories, Definitions’

Lecture: The Transformation of the Ancient Synagogue: From the Meeting Hall of Jesus’ Galilee to the Sacred Space of Early Byzantine Galilee, Professor Paul V.M. Flesher, 27 November, 3-4:30pm

Martin Hall, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh EH1 2LX


The plain, unadorned character of the first-century synagogues excavated in Israel in recent decades differs significantly from that of the synagogues lavishly decorated with mosaic floors which were built in the centuries after Constantine initiated the Christian creation of the “Holy Land.” These aspects of synagogal architectural and artistic composition display differing concepts of sacred space—concepts which reflect important changes in the nature of worship and liturgical activity in Judaism. This talk aims to read the material culture found in archaeological excavations of these two synagogue types and to suggest how those readings might shape our research into them.

A lecture by Professor Paul V.M. Flesher, University of Wyoming


An event jointly organised by The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, The Jewish Studies Network, and the Religious Studies Research Seminar.

Events in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies: ‘ISLAMIC STUDIES IN SCOTLAND: RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT’, 23-24 October 2015

In October IMES, in conjunction with the Alwaleed Centre, will be marking the 50th anniversary of W. Montgomery Watt’s inaugural address as the first Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Scotland with an evening and day of events.

This promises to be a most memorable occasion and will provide an opportunity not only to assess the state of the field since Professor Watt’s pioneering work but will also emphasise the continuing strength of Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Both events will be held in the Playfair Library at the University of Edinburgh and are open to the public.

For booking and more detailed information about the speakers, please see here:

The programme:

Friday, 23 October, 6-8pm

On Friday evening, we will feature two celebrated scholars of early Islam.

Professor Carole Hillenbrand of the University of Edinburgh will begin proceedings with a presentation on ‘Montgomery Watt, the man and the scholar’.

Professor Fred Donner of the University of Chicago will follow with a lecture on ‘The Study of Islam’s Origins since W. Montgomery Watt’s Publications’.

To conclude the evening’s programme, Dr Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, will offer a short talk on Professor Watt’s religious life.

Saturday, 24 October, 9.30-5.30pm

The following day, Saturday, 24 October, we will be holding an academic colloquium titled, ‘Representations of Muhammad’. This will bring together scholars from both Edinburgh and abroad.

Chair: Dr Andrew Marsham, University of Edinburgh



Professor Wilferd Madelung, Institute of Ismaili Studies

Muhammad, Khadija and ‘Umar


Coffee: 10:15-10:45am



Dr Nicolai Sinai, University of Oxford

Muhammad and the Prophetology of the Medinan Qur’an



Dr Andreas Goerke, University of Edinburgh

Muhammad and Zaynab bint Jahsh: Between History and Exegesis


Lunch (12:15pm-1:30pm)



Dr Christiane Gruber, University of Michigan

Muhammad among the Great Men of the World: Enlightenment, Nationhood, and Early 20th-Century Iranian Carpets



Dr Nacim Pak-Shiraz, University of Edinburgh

Representing Muhammad on Screen


Coffee (3:00-3:30pm)



Dr John Tolan, University of Nantes

The Ecumenical Turn: Massignon, Watt, and 20th-century European Scholarship on Muhammad

Roundtable with all Participants: 4:15-5:15pm