"What is...?" Dialogue Series


Kata Gellen


Type: Lab

“What is…” is a series of dialogues with the Global Jewish Modernism Lab that involves the examination of one term and its representation and use in diverse geographical and historical contexts.

What is Jewish modernism?

September 14, 2021


  • Beth Holmgren, Slavic & Eurasian Studies, Duke
  • Priscilla Layne, Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Allison Schachter, English, Jewish Studies, and Russian and East European Studies, Vanderbilt

What is a ghetto?

February 3, 2022

The second event in the “What is…” series of the Global Jewish Modernism Lab. Each dialogue involves the examination of one term and its representation and use in diverse geographical and historical contexts.

The second dialogue explores historical, geographical, and cultural representations of the ghetto, ranging from 16th century Venice, through Eastern Europe inter-war period and Nazi Germany, all the way to modern Chicago. By shedding light on countless misconceptions and misrepresentations of communal spaces throughout history, our invited speakers think beyond the commonplaces surrounding ghettos and, collectively, advocate for the need to re-imagine and re-claim their depiction.


  • Karen Auerbach, History, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Shaul Bassi, Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari, Venice
  • Paul B. Jaskot, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke

What is citizenship?

October 6, 2022

The question “What is citizenship?” is evergreen. Though perhaps impossible to “fix” given the complexities of borders, race, class, and the varying intersecting possibilities, the Global Jewish Modernism Lab invited three scholars to engage in conversation around the question as part of the “What is…” dialogue series on Thursday, October 6th, 2022. Troubling the question of citizenship through their intellectual and personal considerations, scholars Mia Fuller (UC Berkeley) and Shai Ginsburg (Duke) joined award-winning Italian author, academic, activist, and journalist Igiaba Scego for her long-awaited return to Duke University after her 2019 visit.

The event’s focus was not to settle the question but for the speakers to share the kinds of inquiries, languages, experiences, and pedagogy that shape their thinking.


  • Mia Fuller, Italian Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Shai Ginsburg, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke
  • Igiaba Scego, Author and Visiting scholar at Duke

What is multilingualism?

February 9, 2023


  • Monique Balbuena, Comparative Literature, University of Oregon
  • Dominika Baran, English, Duke
  • Lital Levy, Comparative Literature, Princeton
  • Helen Solterer, Romance Studies, Duke