Lynn Rita Davidman

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Sociology
Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Studies
Primary office:
785-864-9412
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.

Education

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
Kudos to our faculty!

Dr. Renee Perelmutter, Associate Professor of Slavic and Jewish Studies, writes fantasy fiction and poetry under the name Rose Lemberg. Her book Marginalia to Stone Bird is the first book of poetry to be shortlisted for a Crawford Award, and is also up for an Elgin Award. Marginalia has been reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and Strange Horizons. Available at Aqueduct Press and Amazon.

Kudos to our students!

March 16, 2017: Mackenzie Haun and Sarah Herman are among three Jewish Studies students who have been 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.”

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