Call for Papers
In the immediate post-Holocaust decades, American Jews sought to make sense of the East European Jewish milieu so recently destroyed. They did so in order to better understand the world that their parents and grandparents had left behind, but also to better assimilate their own guilt and grief over the fate of co-religionists and relatives in Europe. During the 1950s and 1960s what resources did American Jews draw upon in their encounters with East European Jewish life?
Absorbing Encounters: Constructing American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades
2-3 March 2014
A variety of different works of popular ethnography, most famously Life is With People (1952), written under the guidance of Margaret Mead, served to educate American Jews about their past in the 1950s. Theatrical productions, photographic exhibitions, literary translations, and Yiddish humor books were another avenue for American Jews to imagine their antecedents in the pre-Holocaust era. Perhaps most tangible a resource for American Jews was the group of East European Jewish refugees who continued to arrive in the United States throughout the post-war decade. They came from vastly different backgrounds and had endured a great variety of experiences during the war. Some were fortunate to have relatives to greet them, others had to establish new lives entirely on their own. All of them had to decide how to relate to the recent past; whether to try to forget their losses and suffering, or to speak or write about their experiences.
Recent scholarship has demonstrated that previous assumptions about the early silence of American Jewry with regard to the Holocaust were exaggerated. Yet there is still a great deal to learn about the literary, historical and cultural productions of this generation. In what ways, did American Jews access their Eastern European past, both real and imagined, in the decades following the Holocaust?
This conference seeks to bring together scholars of literature, film studies, history, ethnography and related fields to examine how the American Jewish community in the post-Holocaust era was shaped by its encounter with literary relics, living refugees, and other cultural productions which grew out of an encounter with Eastern European Jewish life from the pre-Holocaust era.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
-The production of popular ethnographies -Post-vernacular Yiddish movements
-The culture of literary translations
-The emergence of memorial books
-Communal and philanthropic aid to refugees -Popular culture and the Holocaust
-The construction of the \"Survivor\"
-Fiction, film, and drama about the \"Old Country\" and the war
-Responses in the popular media (radio and television)
Interested scholars should send a one-page abstract of their paper topic to both of the co-organizers by 20 May 2013. We will inform all participants of our decisions by September, 2013 . The conference will take place at the University of Maryland 2-3 March 2014. Those invited to participate will be housed in a local hotel and reimbursed for travel expenses. We plan to collect the papers into a volume and will expect completed drafts by August of 2014.