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Otherwise than Meaning

On the Generosity of Ritual

Don Seeman

The thought experiment ‘ritual in its own right’ implies a suspension of dominant interpretive paradigms in anthropological research. This essay begins by juxtaposing the foundational accounts of Weber and Geertz—both of whom associate ritual with the quest for meaning in suffering—with the phenomenological account of Emmanuel Levinas, who argues that suffering is inherently “useless” and therefore resistant to meaning’s claim. All three theorists are then juxtaposed with the Warsaw ghetto writings of a twentieth-century Jewish mystic, Kalonymos Shapira, whose work exemplifies the tension between meaningful and useless suffering in a real social setting. Shapira’s work bears comparison with Levinas’s, and lends support to the idea that our preoccupation with meaning may stem from a particular religious genealogy of social theory. Ritual can be analyzed as a ground of intersubjectivity or transcendence rather than meaning, which makes it more akin to medicine, in Levinas’s terms, than to theodicy.

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Mindfulness and Hasidic Modernism

Toward a Contemplative Ethnography

Don Seeman and Michael Karlin

Amid growing interest in mindfulness studies focusing on Buddhist and Buddhism-derived practices, this article argues for a comparative and ethnographic approach to analogous practices in different religious traditions and to their vernacular significance in the everyday lives of practitioners. The Jewish contemplative tradition identified with Chabad Hasidism is worth consideration in this context because of its long-standing indigenous tradition of contemplative practice, the recent adoption of ‘mindfulness’ practices or terminology by some Hasidim, and its many intersections with so-called Buddhist modernism. These intersections include the personal trajectories of individuals who have engaged in both Buddhist and Hasidism-derived mindfulness practices, the shared invocation and adaptation of contemporary psychology, and the promotion of secularized forms of contemplative practice. We argue that ‘Hasidic modernism’ is a better frame than ‘neo-Hasidism’ for comparative purposes, and that Hasidic modernism complicates the taxonomies of secularity in comparable but distinctive ways to those that arise in Buddhist-modernism contexts.

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Scott Lasensky, Ilan Peleg, Ned Lazarus, Don Seeman and Assaf Zimring

Michael Brenner, In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), 392 pp. Hardback, $22.50.

Keren Or Schlesinger, Gadi Algazi, and Yaron Ezrahi, eds., Israel/ Palestine: Scholarly Tributes to the Legacy of Baruch Kimmerling [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2017), 525 pp. Paperback, $39.00.

Omer Zanany, From Managing Conflict to Managing a Political Settlement: Israeli Security Doctrine and the Prospective Palestinian State [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and Molad: The Center for Democratic Renewal, 2018), 99 pp.

David Ohana, Nationalizing Judaism: Zionism as a Theological Ideology (New York: Lexington Books, 2017), 224 pp. eBook, $64.40.

Arie Krampf, The Israeli Path to Neoliberalism: The State, Continuity and Change (London: Routledge, 2018), 254 pp. Hardback, $145.00. eBook, $54.95.

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Aparecida Vilaça, Simon Coleman, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Don Seeman and Joel Robbins

What if a Religion Is Not Made to Last? Aparecida Vilaça

The Sense of an Ending Simon Coleman

Constructing Continuity Máire Ní Mhaonaigh

But Whose Categories Are These? Don Seeman

Author's Reply: On Morality, Time and Religious Disappearance Joel Robbins

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André Droogers, Sidney M. Greenfield, Don Handelman, Michael Houseman, Robert E. Innis, André Iteanu, Bruce Kapferer, Galina Lindquist, Piroska Nagy and Don Seeman

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