“Neighborhood Mystics” will be the first interdisciplinary (ethnographic and textual-historical) study of contemplative practice within a dynamic Jewish mystical movement known as Chabad Hasidism. Chabad was founded more than 200 years ago in White Russia through the promotion of specialized practices including contemplative prayer and study (hitbonenut, tefillah ba’avodah) in the context of a close fellowship of pietists. Unlike other Hasidic groups in Eastern Europe who emphasized the training and excitation of the emotions and ecstatic prayer, early Chabad leaders taught that personal transformation should begin with the cognitive faculties known as “wisdom, understanding and knowledge,” whose Hebrew acronym constitutes the name of the movement. Contemplation was said to inculcate virtues like self-abnegation (bittul), giving of oneself (Ibergegebnkeit) and equanimity (hishtavut). Together, these amount to no less than a distinctive form of ethical subjectivity that informs not just prayer or contemplation but everyday life. Today, Chabad has grown into an important global network of “emissaries” or shluchim that can be found on college campuses, suburban “Chabad Houses” and centers of business and tourism around the globe. The adaptation of contemplative practice, including prayer, to these popular contexts deserves analysis. Moreover, I will investigate the relationship between contemporary religious practices and emerging forms of political subjectivity that include wide ranging political activism on church-state issues, contested messianism, and theologies of social solidarity. Though much has been published on the textual history of Chabad theology and a smaller social science literature has recently emerged, my study seeks for the first time to relate classical texts and their interpretations to vernacular religion and lived experience among Chabad devotees and fellow travelers. To that end I am engaged in systematic study of Chabad theoretical and contemplative literature as well as conducting interviews and participant observation in a variety of settings: local “Chabad Houses” in several different cities in North America and Israel, annual events like the “Emissaries’ Convention,” and visits to a variety of educational institutions. Unlike a classical text scholar who is interested in the discovery of new manuscripts and their critical evaluation, I will be exploring the hermeneutic strategies and textual practices of Chabad insiders—contemplative sacred study and prayer cannot be easily separated in this setting. My comparative agenda includes attention to the burgeoning ethnography of religious experience and vernacular religion in Christian and Muslim settings and the growing contemplative science/contemplative practice literature that has emerged in contemporary Buddhist studies.