Keith Kahn-Harris https://kahn-harris.org/ Sociologist and writer Tue, 28 Sep 2021 14:25:22 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://kahn-harris.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Keith Kahn-Harris https://kahn-harris.org/ 32 32 Two recent interviews on denial, denialism and post-denialism https://kahn-harris.org/2021/07/two-recent-interviews-on-denial-denialism-and-post-denialism/ Wed, 28 Jul 2021 18:25:36 +0000 https://kahn-harris.org/?p=2939 Although my book on denial was published in 2018, it is if anything more relevant than ever. I recently conducted a couple of interviews, on a podcast and a radio show, where we discussed what denial means in the time of the pandemic. Scroll down for the links.

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Although my book on denial was published in 2018, it is if anything more relevant than ever. I recently conducted a couple of interviews, on a podcast and a radio show, where we discussed what denial means in the time of the pandemic. Scroll down for the links.

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My new website https://kahn-harris.org/2021/07/my-new-website/ Fri, 02 Jul 2021 14:14:18 +0000 https://kahn-harris.org/?p=2572 Those of you who have visited my website before will notice some fairly dramatic changes. With the help of Simon Appleby at Bookswarm I now have a shiny new website! What I am really pleased with is that I finally have an online home in which to consolidate and display the many different sides of […]

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Those of you who have visited my website before will notice some fairly dramatic changes. With the help of Simon Appleby at Bookswarm I now have a shiny new website! What I am really pleased with is that I finally have an online home in which to consolidate and display the many different sides of my career. I am still working on it though and there may be a few more changes to come. In particular, I am still working through my old blog posts, deciding which ones to keep and how to organise them. So watch this space. The posts that follow this one will be posts from years ago. And feel free to sign up for my newsletter below.

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Religion and Popular Music in Europe (Co-edited with Thomas Bossius and Andreas Häger) https://kahn-harris.org/2011/12/religion-and-popular-music-in-europe-co-edited-with-thomas-bossius-and-andreas-hager/ Tue, 20 Dec 2011 08:20:00 +0000 http://localhost/kahn-harris/?p=71 Published by I.B. Tauris, 2011 Music and religion have, throughout history, walked hand in hand. In the rites and rituals of small tribal religions, great world religions, and more recent New-Age and neo-heathen movements, different kinds of music have been used to celebrate the gods, express belief and help believers get in contact with the […]

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Published by I.B. Tauris, 2011

Music and religion have, throughout history, walked hand in hand. In the rites and rituals of small tribal religions, great world religions, and more recent New-Age and neo-heathen movements, different kinds of music have been used to celebrate the gods, express belief and help believers get in contact with the divine. This innovative book focuses on how mainstream and counter-cultural groups use religion and music to negotiate the challenges of modernisation and globalisation in the European context: a region under-explored by existing literature on the subject. With its internal ethnic diversity, ever-expanding borders and increasing differentiation, Europe has undergone massive dislocation in recent years. The authors show that, in the midst of such change, rock, pop and dance music may in their various forms be used by their practitioners as resources for new kinds of spiritual and religious identification, even as these forms are used as symbols of the deficiencies of secular society. Focusing on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and New Religious Movements, the book explores such topics as Norwegian Black Metal and Neo-paganism, contemporary Jewish Music in the UK, the French hip hop scene, the musical thinking of Muslim convert Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam and European dance music culture. It offers an ideal introduction to leading-edge thinking at the exciting interface of ‘music and religion’.

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Media Appearances and Interviews https://kahn-harris.org/2011/10/media-appearances-and-interviews/ Fri, 28 Oct 2011 11:45:00 +0000 http://localhost/kahn-harris/?p=75   23 August 2012 interview with Judische Allgemeine [German] 27 July 2012 interview in Kreuzer Online  [German] 9 July 2012 interview with WD3 (radio) [German] April 29 interview on the Metal-Rules webzine February 2012 interview on Guardian Sounds Jewish Podcast January 8 2012 appearance on Metal Evolution Episode 8 (Thrash metal) November 4 2011 interview […]

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23 August 2012 interview with Judische Allgemeine [German]
27 July 2012 interview in Kreuzer Online  [German]
9 July 2012 interview with WD3 (radio) [German]

April 29 interview on the Metal-Rules webzine

February 2012 interview on Guardian Sounds Jewish Podcast

January 8 2012 appearance on Metal Evolution Episode 8 (Thrash metal)

November 4 2011 interview on BBC Breakfast

October 7 2011 interview on Little Atoms podcast 

August 16 2011 co-hosting and interview on The Governor’s Ball podcast

Quoted in March 22 2011 article in the New York Jewish Week

March 27 2011 interview on the podcast Cartoon Kippah

Quoted in 7 January 2011 article in Haaretz

July 28 2010 interview with myself and Ben Gidley in the Jewish Chronicle.

November 2009 interview for documentary ‘Appetite for Destruction: Der Sound der Gewalt’ WD3 radio, Germany.

August 2009 interview with Esoteriic webzine

June 2009 interview with International Day of Slayer website

May 2009 interview on Eurovision with Liverpool City Talk FM.

April 2009 interview on The Guardian Sounds Jewish Podcast

January 2009 in collection ‘The Spiritual Significance of Music’ edited by Justin St Vincent

October 2008 with Liverpool City Talk FM.

August 2008 with Treehouse of Of Death

June 2008 with Baltimore’s Jewish radio program, Shalom USA on AM1370-WVIE

June 2008 in JTA article (quoted in a longer article)

July 2007 in The Listener magazine (New Zealand) (quoted in a longer article)

May 2007 with Terrorizer magazine.

February 2007 on Sunday Night Safran, Triple J radio (Australia). [Click here to download a recording of the show]

January 2007 with Miasma magazine (Finland).

May 2006 with BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester on Heavy Metal and the success of Lordi in the 2006 Eurovision song contest.

May 2006 on the BBC World Service ‘Reporting Religion’ on Jews and popular music.

May 12 2006 with the Jewish Chronicle.

2006 interview in the film ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’

 

 

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Dispatch from the UK: One People Separated by a Common Language https://kahn-harris.org/2009/05/dispatch-from-the-uk-one-people-separated-by-a-common-language/ Tue, 19 May 2009 17:48:11 +0000 http://localhost/kahn-harris/?p=179   The British Jewish community rarely seems to feature on the worldwide Jewish map. It may have been significant a century ago, although probably only then because a handful of its leaders had access to the corridors of power of the British Empire. Today, however, it is seldom the focus of international Jewish attention; in […]

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The British Jewish community rarely seems to feature on the worldwide Jewish map. It may have been significant a century ago, although probably only then because a handful of its leaders had access to the corridors of power of the British Empire. Today, however, it is seldom the focus of international Jewish attention; in the context of Israel-Diaspora discussions, ‘Diaspora’ tends to be a synonym for America, and the other countries that comprise the Jewish world outside of Israel barely seem to feature in the discourse. Britain is no exception.

To be fair, there is reason for this. The British Jewish community numbered 450,000 at the end of the Second World War, but its population has declined to fewer than 300,000 today, the loss being variously attributed to assimilation, emigration (in part to Israel), and a low birth rate. Arguably, no other comparable community has suffered such numerical decline in the same period. And the numbers only tell part of the story; in his 1985 book Diaspora, the scholar Howard Sachar variously described British Jewish organizational life as “pedestrian,” its cultural life as “somnolent,” its religious-educational life as “exceptionally shallow,” and its religious establishment as “a bore.”

I don’t know if Sachar has visited the UK since that time, but if he were to drop in on us today, I’m not convinced he would issue quite the same report. Visit the leafy north London suburbs of Golders Green and Hendon, and you’ll encounter a growing range of kosher restaurants, creative educational initiatives and innovative organizations that are breathing new life into the community. Come on Shabbat, and you’ll find a mounting array of interesting spiritual possibilities, ranging from the inspirational Orthodox community of Ner Yisroel, the melodic traditional egalitarian community of Assif, and the funky band playing at Finchley Progressive Synagogue’s monthly ‘Shabbat Resouled.’ Come at the right times of year, and you’ll have opportunities to attend Jewish Book Week – an impressive literary festival by anyone’s standards – the Jewish Film Festival, and the real jewel in the community’s crown, Limmud.

The story of Limmud is a truly remarkable one, particularly given Sachar’s rather bleak view of British Jewry a generation ago. Founded in 1980 as a conference for Jewish educators based on the American CAJE model, it has become one of the great international celebrations of Jewish culture and learning. It attracts 2,500 people annually to its December festival, including some of the biggest names in Jewish music, politics and education, and, as its reputation has grown, it has inspired a whole range of Limmud spin-off events in 26 other communities around the world at the last count. In many respects, the success of other Jewish initiatives in Britain and elsewhere can be traced back to it too – a number of people behind some of the more creative endeavours that pepper Jewish life around the world today were initially or at least partially inspired by their own experiences of Limmud. It has even spawned a love child of its own – Limmudfest – an eco-friendly summer Jewish festival that is starting to have a whole unique impact on the community.

Its success can be attributed to a number of key factors. It doesn’t impose any particular version of Judaism onto participants; instead it provides open space for people to celebrate and engage with Judaism on their own terms. It doesn’t differentiate between those who know and those who do not – participants inevitably flock to hear big names, but everyone is encouraged to be both participant and presenter, and to contribute whatever it is they have to the success of the event. It is run almost entirely by volunteers – Limmud is a space for anyone – provided they can garner sufficient support from the team as a whole – to try anything, to push any boundary or to test any theory. In that regard, it’s a profoundly empowering space – the Judaism one encounters there is vibrant, creative and alive precisely because participants are given the opportunity to make it so. And yet, at the same time, Limmud is deeply committed to an implicit set of values that underpin virtually everything it does – community, responsibility, tolerance, mutual respect, openness, diversity – and somehow it creates a space in which everyone seems to instantly and organically understand and embrace those.

Limmud’s example teaches some important lessons about the future of the Jewish People. It demonstrates that it is possible to be a serious Jew without necessarily identifying with any particular denomination or belonging to a formal community. It demonstrates that if we provide an inspiring and empowering space that allows Jews to shape Jewish life and community, they can be trusted to do so in ways that are more creative, more inspiring, and more thoughtful than we could ever have imagined. Perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that Jewish creativity can happen anywhere – even in a somnolent, shallow and boring place like the Jewish backwater that is (or once was) Britain.

The implication of this final point may well be that the geographically and ideologically-loaded language of ‘Israel-Diaspora’ has become somewhat redundant. The term, which has long been the standardised language of Jewish discourse, clearly differentiates between Israel on the one hand and everywhere else on the other, it merges all Diaspora communities into a singular bloc, and then often reduces that bloc down to its largest component part, the USA.

I don’t reject Israel’s implicit primacy in the duality. It is the centre of the Jewish world, what happens there affects Jews everywhere, and its Jewish religious and historical significance vastly outweighs any claims from any other part of the world. What I question is the duality itself. The Diaspora is not a coherent or cohesive bloc, it cannot and should not be reduced down to a singular entity, and that entity should not be captured or represented by the United States alone. If Jewish creativity can happen anywhere – and Limmud demonstrates that it can – we ought to develop a new kind of language that seeks to include Jewish communities everywhere, recognise their uniqueness, and empower them towards great things.

The language I believe we ought to adopt gives primacy to Jewish people over and above Jewish places, not least because our future may be far less reliant on ‘place’ than we often think. Place is not unimportant – it provides an environment within which Jewish creativity can either flourish or flounder – but ultimately it is the contribution of individuals or small groups of people that will propel us forward. Different places generate different responses in people, and it was precisely the stuffy and drowsy nature of the British Jewish community that prompted a group of British Jews to first create Limmud and then transform it from a small conference into an international phenomenon.

Language influences the way in which we view the world and ultimately shapes policy. The language of Israel-Diaspora diminishes our view of the Diaspora, and turns millions of vibrant, varied and valuable Jews living throughout the world into a singular and amorphous mass. That fails to capture who we are, the nature of our experience, and the possibilities we could create. Change the language, and we might just start to change the results.

Jonathan Boyd is Acting Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London.  A former Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Institute in Israel, he is the editor of The Sovereign and the Situated Self: Jewish Identity and Community in the 21st Century (Profile Books, 2003). This essay is being published in collaboration with Zeek.

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