Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism

Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism

Alanna E. Cooper
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/07/2012
Format: Paperback 13 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00650-9
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Part ethnography, part history, and part memoir, this volume chronicles the complex past and dynamic present of an ancient Mizrahi community. While intimately tied to the Central Asian landscape, the Jews of Bukhara have also maintained deep connections to the wider Jewish world. As the community began to disperse after the fall of the Soviet Union, Alanna E. Cooper traveled to Uzbekistan to document Jewish life before it disappeared. Drawing on ethnographic research there as well as among immigrants to the US and Israel, Cooper tells an intimate and personal story about what it means to be Bukharan Jewish. Together with her historical research about a series of dramatic encounters between Bukharan Jews and Jews in other parts of the world, this lively narrative illuminates the tensions inherent in maintaining Judaism as a single global religion over the course of its long and varied diaspora history.

Author Bio

Alanna E. Cooper is an anthropologist and cultural historian who has held research and teaching positions at Boston University, University of Massachusetts, University of Michigan, and Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions. Her publications have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Review of Books, Anthropology of East Europe Review, Jewish Social Studies, and AJS Review.


“Innovative and thought provoking, this well researched and well constructed book . . . provides a valuable contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of Jewish identities. . . . The Bukharan Jewish community can be taken as a case study of Jewish diasporic dynamics and forces. The book demonstrates and analyzes—both historically and ethnographically—the mechanisms that underlie the sense of oneness between the Bukharan Jews and Jewish communities in other cultural contexts. ”
 — Hagar Salamon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“With the eyes of an anthropologist attuned to history, Alanna Cooper provides a path into the past, culture, and evolving identities of Bukharan Jews as they became enmeshed in global forces from the 19th century onward. The book's journey of discovery leads to a grasp of Jewish social and religious life that is transnational in its scope. Cooper's interweaving of anthropology and history contributes to a robust and expanding paradigm of Jewish Studies.”
 — Harvey E. Goldberg, editor of Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries (IUP, 1996)

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Table of Contents

Preface: Reining in Diaspora's Margins
Part 1. Introduction
1. First Encounter: Bukharan Jewish Immigrants in an Ashkenazi School in New York
2. Writing Bukharan Jewish History: Memory, Authority, and Peoplehood
Part 2. Eighteenth-Century Conversations
3. An Emissary from the Holy Land in Central Asia
4. Revisiting the Story of the Emissary from the Holy Land
Part 3. Nineteenth-Century Conversations
5. Russian Colonialism and Central Asian Jewish Routes
6. A Matter of Meat: Local and Global Religious Leaders in Conversation
7. Building a Neighborhood and Constructing Bukharan Jewish Identity
Part 4. Twentieth-Century Conversations
8. Local Jewish Forms
9. International Jewish Organizations Encounter Local Jewish Community Life
10. Varieties of Bukharan Jewishness
11. Negotiating Authenticity and Identity: Bukharan Jews Encounter Each Other and the Self
12. Jewish History as a Conversation

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