22: Anne Perez

Department

History

Program and Year of Study

PhD, 5th year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Religious Studies, UC San Diego

MA History, UC San Diego

MA Theological Studies (emphasis in Historical Studies), Bethel Seminary

Where did you grow up?

California. Since I was in middle school, my family has been in the south Bay Area.

Where do you live now?

Davis, but just about to move to Edinburgh, Scotland.

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

The Arboretum – it’s beautiful, I always take visitors there, and it’s where I got engaged! 

How do you relax?

Walks, cooking, wine, playing with my baby, and my favorite shows. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I’m finishing up Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and have just started Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

I would be binge-watching The Great British Bake Off if I hadn’t already watched the available seasons! I recently finished re-bingeing Parks and Recreation

Research interests

The intersections and symbiosis between religion and nationalism, and how these influence the way groups view themselves, each other, and their resources. I’m especially interested in how overlap between religion and nationalism works in contexts of conflict and inequality. Geographically, my research interests generally focus on Israeli history and Middle Eastern history, but they’re not limited to that.

Dissertation title or topic

My (still untitled) dissertation is about the ways early Zionists (from the late 19th century to early 1960s) dealt with issues of conversion to and from Judaism, and what this says about early Zionist goals and assumptions about who is a Jew and the meaning of a Jewish state. 

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

There have been many. It’s generally noteworthy that oftentimes what people thought were isolated and exceptional cases were actually part of wider trends. One of the more recent surprises was an obituary of a Palestinian Arab man who converted from Islam to Judaism and joined the furthest right-leaning Jewish militia in Palestine. He died when he was just 22 years old, on a “mission” in Jenin right before Israel declared independence. 

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

There have been several; Deborah Hertz’s class on Modern Jewish History at UC San Diego sparked my passion for studying history. However, my most influential “class” was probably Galilee College’s summer program on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The program featured scholars alongside activists, journalists, and community leaders who discussed the conflict from a variety of angles, and it demonstrated how academia can provide an avenue to engage real-life issues. Additionally, teaching middle school history classes in Lebanon led me to the realization that as much as I loved the students, I wanted to teach at the university level instead.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Maybe Yehuda Shenhav’s Arab Jews. He contributed to a turning point in the way scholars talk about Jews from the Middle East, and his unique perspective led him to use a fascinating base of source material. Plus, he integrates theory into his analysis so effectively. I’d love for someone to want to read my (future) book as closely as I wanted to read his. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

I’m inspired by professors in the Department of History whose work rigorously challenges existing historiography but does so in a narrative and engaging way, such as, most recently, Andres Resendez’s The Other Slavery and Louis Warren’s God’s Red Son.

I’m also interested in Noha Radwan’s work on comparative literature in the Middle East, especially since there are not many scholars who work on both Arabic and Hebrew literature. I also admire her integrity in living out the political implications that derive from her work. 

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Having my passion as a job! I love working on history full time, and doing it alongside others who share this passion. 

What's the worst?

The instability. Hustling for funding (fellowship applications, TAships, lectureships, etc.), either to do research or just to have income, not knowing if and where we will find employment when we’re done and how this will affect (or be affected by) our families. Watching the instability affect grad students who are most marginalized to begin with – the very ones we especially need influencing the production of knowledge and education of new generations.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Possibly continuing to teach middle school history, or working in a church as a youth minister. Maybe applying for corporate jobs I don’t want. (I’m glad I’m a grad student!)

Finally, please ask yourself a question

If you could visit anywhere, where would you go?

Switzerland! Site of the first Zionist Congress, breathtaking views, gritty Reformation history, pastries and cheese, what more would you want?

 

—October 2017

 

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