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Katalin Rac

Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica


Phone: 352.273.2638

Office location: 206 Library East

Focus Areas: History of Oriental scholarship in Europe, Jewish studies, history of travel to the Middle East, nationalism and empires

Katalin Franciska Rac is library coordinator for Jewish heritage at the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, Department of Special and Area Studies Collections of the George A. Smathers Libraries. She received her Ph. D. in history from the University of Florida in 2014. Before joining the Price Library of Judaica, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and recipient of an archival fellowship at the Center for Jewish History in New York.

Rac’s research topics include the European scholarly, literary, and artistic interest in the Middle East from the early modern period until World War I, Jewish scholars’  Oriental research and its connections to the Jewish intellectual and social experience in modern Europe, and the history of European travel to the Middle East and Central Asia, its influence on European identity discourse and Oriental scholarship. She has been researching topics also in the field of gastronomic history.

She taught various courses at the University of Florida, including the History of Diplomacy.

Selected Publications

East and West in Modern Hungarian Politics,” Hungarian Cultural Studies (2014)

“Orientals among the People of the East: Nationalism, Orientalism and the Jewish Question in Nineteenth-Century Hungary,” in Empires and Nations from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century Volume I, 131-139, edited by Antonello Folco Biagini and Giovanna Motta. Newcastle upon Tyn: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013


Navigating the Empires

This project explores the motivations and interests of European travelers (from merchants to scholars) in the Ottoman Empire in the early modern and modern periods and the ways in which they communicated their views of and experiences in the Middle East and Central Asia to different audiences back home. It is based on the premise that traveling is a peculiar cultural act which contributes to the parallel formation of the notion of the self and the other. Hence the study of European travel to the Middle East is instrumental to the study of European attitudes toward Middle Easterners, the European research of the Orient, and its artistic renditions by European artists.

Jewish role in modern European Oriental research: the relationship between Oriental and Jewish studies in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe

This research continues the investigation which Rac started in her doctoral dissertation “Orientalism for the Nation: Jews and Oriental Scholarship in Modern Hungary.” In the dissertation, she explored the contribution of three Hungarian Jewish scholars, Armin Vambery, Ignaz Goldziher, and Aurel Stein, to Hungarian and international Oriental scholarship. Their careers, which span through the nineteenth- and early twentieth century, demonstrate the saliency of Oriental studies in national identity politics and, not independently from it, in Jewish integration in Hungary. Similarly to these three orientalists, many other Hungarian Jewish scholars participated in Oriental research in both Hungary and beyond. Among them, the faculty of the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest developed a significant Oriental research agenda. Parallel to that, from its inauguration in 1877, Jewish studies and Oriental scholarship coexisted within the Seminary’s walls. If Rac’s previous research elucidated the influence of Oriental research on Jewish scholars’ careers and integration in national academic institutions, the scope of the extension of the research is to examine how Oriental scholarship affected Jewish studies and vice versa in modern Hungary and beyond.