Lynn Rita Davidman

Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Studies
Primary office:
785-864-9412


I just published a book, Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidim* based upon narratives of adults who had taken the challenging step of leaving the Hasidic communities in which they were raised. The book interrogates the connections between culture (as seen in religions), embodiment, gender and identities. Hasidim, who in their everyday lives practice hundreds of rituals, create a case study par excellence of the centrality of physical actions in their daily lives. The primary argument of the book is that although our culture emphasizes cognition and emotions, and sees leaving religion as a matter of losing faith, those who leave these communities undergo an identity transformation through the medium of the body. This argument applies to others whose primary means of identity change is through the body, such as lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people.

Teaching Interests

  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sociology of the body, identity, qualitative and narrative research methods
  • Theory, critical whiteness theory

Research Interests

  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sociology of the body, identity, qualitative and narrative research methods
  • Theory, critical whiteness theory

PROFESSOR DAVIDMAN (PhD, Brandeis University; University Distinguished Professor) received her graduate degree from Brandeis University, where the Sociology department specialized in social theory—classical, contemporary, critical and feminist—as well as in qualitative sociology, ethnographic methods and interviewing strategies.  This background in theory has and continues to form her central concern in all her teaching and research projects. So, at KU she has taught classes in Feminist Theory, Sociological Theory, and, all of her other classes—such as Narrative Methodology or Feminist Theories of the Body have theory at the center of class goals.
          The fundamental question, in which she has been interested and has focused her three books upon, is how people make sense of their lives after a major, unexpected biographical disruption and how through our conversations (aka interviews) we construct narratives that establish coherence between events before and after this transformation of their lives. Her central areas of research have been gender and religion. In her books, she uses grounded theory to develop an analysis that ties the particular case study question to larger theoretical issues.  Her research is always guided by Peter Berger’s pesky question “So what?” She enriches her presentation of her particular study by presenting her analysis in a way that clearly links her project to larger issues in the discipline of Sociology. 
          Her most recent book, Becoming Un-Orthodox integrates her new and growing fascination with sociology of the body and the centrality of embodiment to all social interactions.  She uses the case study of defectors from Ultra-Orthodox Judaism to make the larger argument that changes in embodied practices are central to all identity transformation.  Leaving a religious community is not only a matter of losing faith; rather, but is accomplished through the medium of the body.  Similarly, coming out as an l/g/b/t/q person is a major change in identity that is not solely cognitive, but is rooted in changes in habitual embodied practices, an issue addressed in this book. Lynn also serves on the advisory board of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University and is a member of the editorial board for Qualitative Sociology.


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