My research situates Hasidic Judaism within a global context to rethink larger questions in political theology about religion and capitalism, race and gender, sovereignty and empire.
I do this by tracking the various forms of mediation performed by Hasidic brokers.
My interests include:
race and religion
media and mediation
global trade and diaspora
masculinities and queer theory
economic and political theology
Reb Shayele--Kerestir, Hungary
Hilula, April 2023
Photographer: Sam Shuman
Cutting Out the Middleman
examines middlemen who orchestrate sales within the diamond industry
I received competitive funding from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Fulbright, to conduct ethnographic fieldwork across wholesale trading and manufacturing hubs in Antwerp, Mumbai, Ramat Gan, and New York City, and to train as a certified polished diamond grader.
I spent my time in trading offices, governmental offices, synagogues, and cafes, to understand how the rise of online trading platforms and the state’s surveillance of transactions were leading steadily to the “disintermediation” of brokers in the diamond industry.
Of Mice and Hasidic Men
examines a Hasidic saint who provides protection from the state
It concerns the various forms of saintly mediation performed by a dead Hungarian Hasidic miracle-worker named Reb Shayele (1851-1925). Though long considered to protect against the infestation of mice in Hasidic homes and businesses, Shayele has assumed newfound significance among Hasidic men in the last decade. Shayele has been resurrected as a patron saint of hospitality and protection against “intruders."
By praying at Shayele’s gravesite and using his amulets, icon, and incantations, contemporary Hasidim seek to ward off unwelcome encounters with agents of the state, such as—police, traffic enforcement agents, and building inspectors. This work attends to the complexities of race and religion, political theology, policing, as well as populist masculinities in the United States, Israel/Palestine, and Europe.