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"The Golem: The Artificial Anthropoid from Enlightenment Monster to AI" by Cathy Gelbin, Ph.D.
This lecture is part of the (rescheduled) 2020 GHI Spring Lecture Series “'The spirits that I called': Artificial Life from the Enlightenment to the Present.”


The Hulk, Superman, the Terminator; they are all modern popular culture echoes of the golem, that mystical Jewish artificial man of legend, a sort of friendly Jewish Frankenstein. Widely seen as an icon of authentically Jewish lore, the golem has inspired a broad range of works of writers and artists within the Jewish world and beyond. The talk will explore the modern emanations of this figure from ambivalent Enlightenment discourses about the Jews, as well as gendered, racialized and sexualized difference more broadly, through to their 20th century reconfigurations and postmodern debates about the ‘posthuman’ (Donna Haraway) in relation to the cyborg. It will relate these discussions to contemporary representation of AI and test their promise to release us from the constraints of essentializing notions of the self.

May 20, 2021 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Speakers

Cathy Gelbin
Speaker
Cathy S. Gelbin (PhD, MA Cornell University) is Professor of Film and German Studies at the University of Manchester. A film historian and cultural studies scholar, she has worked on Holocaust representations and modern German-Jewish culture with particular interest in issues of gender, sexuality and race. She is co-editor of the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book for the Study of German-Jewish History and Culture (Oxford Journals) and serves on the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Leo Baeck Institute London. Book publications include The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture (2011), Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalization (co-ed. Sander L. Gilman, 2014) and Cosmopolitanisms and the Jews (with Sander L. Gilman, 2017). She is currently working on a study of Jewish dissidence in the Eastern Bloc.
Anna-Carolin Augustin
Moderator
Anna-Carolin Augustin is a research fellow in German and Jewish History at the GHI in Washington D.C. Her main fields of interest are modern German-Jewish History and Culture with emphasis on Women's and Gender History as well as Jewish Material Culture. She was a fellow at the Walther Rathenau Graduiertenkolleg (Moses Mendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies) and received her PhD in modern history from the Universität Potsdam in 2016. Her first monograph, Berliner Kunstmatronage. Sammlerinnen und Förderinnen bildender Kunst um 1900 was published in 2018. Simultaneously, she has devoted herself to museum exhibitions (a. o. “Golem”, Jewish Museum Berlin) and provenance research. In her current research project, she examines the entangled object biographies and migration paths of Judaica as well as their changing attributions of meaning and functions after 1945 in a transnational, cultural-historical study.