Lynn Rita Davidman

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Sociology
Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Studies
Primary office:
Fraser Hall
Room 740
University of Kansas
1415 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045-7556

While doing the research and writing for my recent book, Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidim, I located some major sociological and humanities themes in my respondents’ interviews that I am pursuing in articles now. One article introduces the concept of ‘disinscription, a concept I constructed to illustrate that leaving religion is not only about faith, but about changing and removing deeply ingrained ritual bodily practices as well. Building on that, I am also writing an article about bodily rituals among Mormons, comparing their exit stories with those of the Jews. A third article I am pursuing is one on religion and emotion. The exit narratives I collected are quite emotionally charged and I would like to delve more deeply into the subject of religion and emotions, for example, how religious conversion and defection involve different emotional valences and lead to different courses of action. I am currently working on comparing the Jewish ‘exiters’ experiences with those of Mormon defectors.

My current research also involves several distinct research projects, in addition to the articles. One is a book comparing contemporary Jewish mindfulness and meditation, with parallel Buddhist practices. The book will involve analysis and comparison of the ancient texts contemporary practitioners draw upon, participant observation at each group’s rituals, including meditation sessions, silent retreats, and interviews with contemporary practitioners.

I am also beginning to conduct interviews for a series of articles on Jewish ‘tribalism,’ (articulated as ‘genetics’) highlighting this key means of identification with Judaism on the part of Jews who do not practice or belong to any Jewish organizations. In an era in which racial descriptors are generally eschewed in society, I am exploring how unaffiliated Jews use this language to describe the nature of their Judaism.

On the side, I am working on a project arising from my long-time interest in mental health and society. I was a psychology major in college; since then I have continued to pay attention to psychology and psychiatry. My long-term goal is to write an intellectual biography of Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist who showed the strengths in patients who might otherwise be “disabled.” The tentative title here is Oliver Sacks: The Doctor Who Learned from his Patients.

In addition to my major projects, occasionally I respond to writers’ and reporters’ questions about current issues in religion. For example, last fall I spoke to a reporter in New York from American Catholic, who was writing an essay about rural Catholic churches. He located me through the Sociology Department and asked whether I would do some field research at a Church in rural Kansas. He directed me to a priest in Axtell, KS, I set up an appointment with him, went to a Sunday Mass, interviewed the priest, and then wrote a report on my findings. These small projects offer me opportunities to learn about other religion and help me build a reputation as a public scholar.


Ph.D., Sociology, Brandeis University

M.A., Religion and Psychological Studies, University of Chicago Divinity School

B.A., Psychology & Religion , Barnard College, Columbia University

Teaching Interests

  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sociology of the body
  • Identity
  • Qualitative and narrative research methods
  • Theory
  • Critical whiteness theory
  • Sociology of American Jews
  • Contemporary Jewish identities

Research Interests

  • Culture
  • The therapeutic
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sociology of the body
  • Identity
  • Qualitative and narrative research methods
  • Theory
  • Critical whiteness theory

Upcoming Program Events
Dr. Perelmutter to be first Director of Undergraduate Studies!

Dr. Renee Perelmutter will be the first Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Jewish Studies Program! Dr. Perelmutter is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Slavic. She will begin her position as Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Fall 2017 semester.

Kudos to our students!

March 16, 2017: JS students Mackenzie Haun, Sarah Herman and Ariel Silverman were elected to join Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious national academic academy. Phi Beta Kappa “celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America’s leading colleges and universities.”

More Kudos!

Dr. Gal Levy, former Visiting Israeli Professor at KU, has won first prize for best article in Hebrew from the Israeli Political Science Association. The article looks at the post-protest protest in Israel and Dr. Levy gives acknowledgments to the KU Jewish Studies Program. Dr. Levy currently teaches at the Open University in Israel. He will be a guest speaker at KU on August 23, his lecture is titled, "Citizenship in Crisis in Contemporary Israel".

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