The University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow and National Museums Scotland are seeking a doctoral student for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award, “Judaica in Scotland, 1817 – Present: Objects of Faith, Migration and Identity”. The project has been awarded funding by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and will be supervised by Dr Hannah Holtschneider (College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh), Dr Mia Spiro (School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow), and Dr Calum Robertson (Curator, Modern and Military History, National Museums Scotland).
The studentship will commence on 11 September 2023. We warmly encourage applications from candidates who have an academic background in history, art or material culture studies, or a cognate discipline. Applicants will be expected to show a strong interest in Jewish history and cultural heritage and/or the history and material culture of immigration in Scotland. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a strong PhD student to explore their own research interests, while exploring opportunities to develop a career in either academia or the museums, galleries and archives sector. The studentship is available full or part time, subject to Student Route visa requirements.
The student will be based in the School of Divinity, at the New College campus of the University of Edinburgh, but will also spend considerable time in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow, and at National Museums Scotland in Chambers Street. There will be a period of funded work internship at National Museums Scotland, which will involve hands-on work with collections, as well as public engagement work.
The award will include a number of training opportunities offered by SGSAH, including their Core Leadership Programme and additional funding to cover travel between partner organisations and related events. This studentship will also benefit from training, support, and networking via the School of Divinity (University of Edinburgh) and the School of Critical Studies (University of Glasgow). The student will be expected to participate in training for collections and museum specific skills at National Museums Scotland.
This project investigates objects of Jewish religious observance (Judaica) from the establishment of the first Jewish community in Scotland in 1817 to the present. This will create a richer understanding of the story of Scotland’s Jewish communities, their local, national and international networks, and their place in broader Scottish society. Judaica are found in both religious and domestic settings, and reflect the stories of those who commissioned or acquired them, the environments in which they were made, and relationships between client and maker. Therefore, Judaica represent key evidence to help construct a more nuanced picture of Jewish life.
The aims and objectives of this research project are:
- To undertake a systematic investigation of the origins of Judaica in Scotland.
- To explore how stylistic choices communicate cultural and religious identifications.
- To apply these findings to the broader contextual knowledge of Jewish communities in Scotland to create a better understanding of inter- and intra-communal, national, and transnational exchanges.
- To apply this knowledge to the development of collections at NMS that represent religious diversity in Scotland.
- To inform the interpretation of faith, migration and identity as it applies to minority religious and ethnic groups in anticipation of the reconsideration of the Scotland galleries.
The prevailing historiography of migration in modern Scotland has focused on two balancing narratives: the Scottish diaspora and Christian immigrants that have challenged Scotland’s Presbyterian hegemony. Newer examinations of the experiences of migrant groups, however, reveal a diversity of perspectives on nineteenth and twentieth century Scottish society and the nation’s transcultural connections. Judaica in Scotland showcases the diversity of Scotland’s populations by using material evidence to provide important insights into Jewish religious and social structures between the establishment of Scotland’s first Jewish community in 1817 and now. Jewish communities have always been small in number, yet their substantial impact on Scottish life continues to add to the rich heritage and vibrancy of Scottish religious and cultural life. The various waves of Jewish migration responded not only to persecution in central and eastern Europe, but also to opportunities that led to new beginnings in Scotland.
An emerging scholarly interest in the peripheral Jewish communities of the UK shows the importance of understanding the movement of people and ideas, processes of acculturation, and creation and maintenance of religious identities in these contexts. Notably, however, few studies critically examine and incorporate material evidence. The study of material culture nevertheless offers unique opportunities to better understand the nature of Jewish life in Scotland. Judaica – the broad term for objects related to Jewish ritual observance – plays a central role in the life of many Jews in both public and domestic settings. It reflects the story of the Jewish people and exhibits religious and cultural specificities that cast a light on the nature of Jewish experience in Scotland and the wider world. An understanding of what links Jewish devotional objects in Scotland to those who manufacture, import and use them can reveal a range of unexplored interconnections, whether social, economic, religious, cultural or aesthetic.
The key research questions are:
- Where did and does Judaica in Scotland originate? And what are the relationships between the origin of an object and to how it is understood and used?
- What can the creation and circulation of Judaica tell us about Jewish/non-Jewish relations in Scotland?
- To what extent can we speak of identifiably or uniquely Scottish Judaica?
At the University of Edinburgh, to study at postgraduate level you must normally hold a degree in an appropriate subject, with an excellent or very good classification (equivalent to first or upper second class honours in the UK), plus meet the entry requirements for the specific degree programme. In this case, applicants should offer a UK masters, or its international equivalent, with a mark of at least 67% (or equivalent) in your coursework and your dissertation of at least 10,000 words.
The AHRC also expects that applicants to PhD programmes will hold, or be studying towards, a Masters qualification in a relevant discipline; or have relevant professional experience to provide evidence of your ability to undertake independent research. Please ensure you provide details of your academic and professional experience in your application letter.
Experience in the study of religious history and/or Jewish history and of material culture will be of benefit to the project.
The application will consist of a single Word file or PDF which includes:
- a brief cover note that includes your full contact details together with the names and contact details of two referees (1 page).
- a letter explaining your interest in the studentship and outlining your qualifications for it, as well as an indication of the specific areas of the project you would like to develop (2 pages).
- a curriculum vitae (2 pages).
- a sample of your writing – this might be an academic essay or another example of your writing style and ability.
Applications should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5pm on Monday 30 January 2023. Applicants will be notified if they are being invited to interview by Tuesday 24 May. Interviews of shortlisted candidates will take place at a mutually convenient time via Microsoft Teams. The successful applicant will make an online admissions application for a PhD Religious Studies in the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.
If you have any queries about the application process, please contact: email@example.com
Informal enquiries relating to the Collaborative Doctoral Award project can be made to Dr Hannah Holtschneider, firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr Mia Spiro, Mia.Spiro@glasgow.ac.uk, or Dr Calum Robertson, email@example.com.
This project will primarily be collections-based, and the successful candidate will be expected to examine and record a broad range of Jewish ritual objects. The focus will be on Jewish collections across Scotland, such as the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre and repositories held by religious organisations, places of worship, and private collections. Data collected from the analysis of objects will relate to design, production and exchange. This information will be used to construct an understanding of Judaica in Scotland and its relevance to the relationships among Jewish communities and wider Scottish society.
In addressing the research questions, the project will investigate a range of ceremonial art and ritual objects found across Scotland. The candidate will thereby work with a range of stakeholders to produce the first systematic study of Judaica in Scotland and unlock this important body of evidence of Scottish Jewish life. Exploring material evidence from the 1800s to the present will enhance understandings of the story of Jews in Scotland, and will inform the future interpretation of objects of minority religions in Scotland at NMS, particularly as the organisation begins the reconsideration of the Scotland galleries.
As part of the project, the candidate will have the opportunity to identify gaps in NMS collections and develop thinking around the collection of historical and contemporary faith-related objects in Scotland. This will ensure that NMS continues to collect and interpret objects that reflect the diversity of Scottish society in the past and present. They will also be required to familiarise themselves with Jewish museums in the United Kingdom and Europe in order to establish typological differences and similarities with material examined in Scotland. This may require research trips to institutions such as the Jewish Museum London, the Manchester Jewish Museum, and the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.
Tracing the history of the objects in the wider context of Jewish and Scottish cultural and religious history will necessarily entail an application of current theoretical approaches in the interpretation of material culture. Thereby the student will develop their competence in archival research and the study of the history and provenance of objects. Researching and recording object biographies will also be instrumental in analysing the cultural context within which the material was created and used.