The University of Massachusetts Amherst


David MednicoffDavid Mednicoff

Interim Director, Academic Year 2019-2020

Chair, Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy

Professor Mednicoff's research deals with broad connections between legal and political ideas and institutions at the national and transnational levels, particularly as these relate to current issues in the Middle East. His articles and book chapters analyze the rule of law, human rights issues, Western legal aid, US policy, migrant worker law and policy, political liberalization and constitutionalism in the Middle East, especially Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia and the UAE. He is currently completing a book manuscript on the meanings and politics of the rule of law in five Arab societies.

Part of this work is funded by a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund that ran through 2016. Professor Mednicoff was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in law in Qatar in 2006-7, a Grantee and Member of the Georgetown-CIRS Migrant Labor in the Gulf Initiative, a Research Fellow in 2010-11 in the Dubai Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Resident Fellow at the ZIF (Institute for Interdisciplinary Study) in Bielefeld, Germany in 2014. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and a national teaching prize related to pedagogy on the US and the Middle East.

Alon ConfinoAlon Confino

Director (On Sabbatical Academic Year 2019-2020)

Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies

I grew up in Jerusalem and was educated at Tel Aviv University and UC Berkeley. I am broadly interested in the theory and practice of writing history displayed in particular in the topics of memory, culture, and nationhood. My work has often taken modern German history as a point of departure, yet has consistently cast its net wider. As a historian, I have sought to reach in my work the edges of the historical discipline, those areas of research and theory where the historical method meets ethnography, literature, anthropology, and cultural studies. In my writing over the years, I have sought to craft a narrative weaving together storytelling with critical analysis. But in recent years I have been particularly interested in probing into different possibilities of historical narration.

Among my book publications are The Nation As a Local Metaphor: Württemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 (1997) and Germany As a Culture of Remembrance: Promises and Limits of Writing History (2006). For several years I worked on the Holocaust and wrote Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust As Historical Understanding (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2012) and A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (Yale UP, 2014). A World Without Jews explores the German sensibilities in the Third Reich that underlie the persecution and extermination of the Jews, making them conceivable and imaginable; the project was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship.>

Completing A World Without Jews, I sought a new challenge, in terms of method, sources, and interpretation, and chose to work on a topic squarely within Jewish and Israeli history. My current project, Imagining Palestine and Israel, 1948: Jews and Palestinians between Local Experience and Global History crafts two narratives: one is based on the experience of Arabs, Jews, and British based on letters, diaries, and oral history, and the second is placing 1948 within global perspective of decolonization, the break-up of the British Empire, human rights, and, in particular, modern forced migrations and partitions. I am the recipient of grants from the Fulbright, Humboldt, and Lady Davis Foundations, the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University, the Social Science Research Council, the Israel Academy of Sciences, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at Washington, DC.

Maypaz Goldstein

Administrative Coordinator