Going to the People

Going to the People

Jews and the Ethnographic Impulse
Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger
Publication date: 2/17/2016
ISBN: 978-0-253-01916-5
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Taking S. An-sky’s expeditions to the Pale of Jewish Settlement as its point of departure, the volume explores the dynamic and many-sided nature of ethnographic knowledge and the long and complex history of the production and consumption of Jewish folk traditions. These essays by historians, anthropologists, musicologists, and folklorists showcase some of the finest research in the field. They reveal how the collection, analysis, and preservation of ethnography intersect with questions about the construction and delineation of community, the preservation of Jewishness, the meaning of belief, the significance of retrieving cultural heritage, the politics of accessing and memorializing “lost” cultures, and the problem of narration, among other topics.

Author Bio

Jeffrey Veidlinger is Joseph Brodsky Collegiate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He is author of In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (IUP), Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire (IUP), and The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage (IUP).


"In the post-Cold War era, Jewish ethnography, from historical to contemporary times, has attracted growing scholarly interest. This volume brings together some of the most innovative research in the field, and will be of interest to an interdisciplinary group of scholars in Jewish studies, Russian and East European history and culture, as well as global history, anthropology, folklore, and musicology." —Eugene Avrutin, author of Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky's Ethnographic Expeditions

"I read through this collection with pleasure and fascination. Ethnography is newly of interest to many scholars of Jewish studies, and I am confident that this volume will find an appreciative audience. Indeed the variety here powerfully conveys how many people are interested in ethnography both as a method and as the subject of their analysis. These are valuable voices that should be heard." —Gabriella Safran, Stanford University

"This book's essays portray the various threads and trends in Jewish ethnography in Poland and Soviet Russia, the US, the new Jewish State of Israel and, eventually, in postcommunist societies. The endurance and evolution of Jewish folk culture is analyzed using techniques applicable to all groups and communities. . . . Recommended." —

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Table of Contents

Introduction \ Jeffrey Veidlinger
Part I. History of the Ethnographic Impulse
1. Thrice Born, or Between Two Worlds: Reflexivity and Performance in An-sky's Jewish Ethnographic Expedition and Beyond \ Nathaniel Deutsch
2. Between Scientific and Political: Jewish Scholars and Russian-Jewish Physical Anthropology in the Fin-de-Siècle Russian Empire\ Marina Mogilner
3. To Study Our Past, Make Sense of Our Present and Develop Our National Consciousness:” Lev Shternberg’s Comprehensive Program for Jewish Ethnography in the USSR \ Sergei Kan
4. “What Should We Collect?”: Ethnography, Local Studies, and the Formation of a Belorussian Jewish Identity \ Elissa Bemporad
5. Yiddish Folklore and Soviet Ideology during the 1930s \ Mikhail Krutikov
6. After An-sky: I.M. Pul’ner and the Jewish Section of the State Museum of Ethnography in Leningrad \ Deborah Yalen
7. “Holy Sacred Collection Work”: The Relationship between YIVO and its Zamlers \ Sarah Ellen Zarrow
8. The Last “Zamlers”: Avrom Sutzkever and Shmerke Kaczerginski in Vilna, 1944-1945 \ David E. Fishman
Part II. Findings from the Field
9. Ethnography and Folklore among Polish Jews in Israel—Immigration and Integration \ Haya Bar-Itzhak
10. The Use of Hebrew and Yiddish in the Rituals of Contemporary Jewry of Bukovina and Bessarabia \ Alexandra Polyan
11. Food and Faith in the Soviet Shtetl \ Jeffrey Veidlinger
12. Undzer Rebenyu: Religion, Memory, and Identity in Postwar Moldova \ Sebastian Z. Schulman
Part III. Reflections on the Ethnographic Impulse
13. Ex-Soviet Jews: Collective Autoethnography \ Larisa Fialkova and Maria Yelenevskaya
14. Family Pictures at an Exhibition: History, Autobiography, and the Museum Exhibit on Jewish Łódź "In Mrs. Goldberg's Kitchen” \ Halina Goldberg
15. Seamed Stockings and Ponytails: Conducting Ethnographic Fieldwork in a Contemporary Hasidic Community \ Asya Vaisman Schulman
Part IV. By Way of Conclusion
16. From Function to Frame: The Evolving Conceptualization of Jewish Folklore Studies \ Simon J. Bronner
List of Contributors