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Anthony Di Fiore, Chair SAC 4.102, Mailcode C3200 78712 • 512-471-4206

Fall 2009

ANT 325L • Representation of Jews in the American Public Sphere

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
30490 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
WAG 420

Course Description

This course will critically examine how Jews have been represented and constituted in American public culture—as race, religion, and/or nation-- through distinct institutions and display practices such as world's fairs, museum exhibits, photographic displays, immigration stations, and public/private spaces of home, leisure and work. We will focus especially on the ways in which distinct events and exhibitions constitute a particular image of the "Jew" in American diasporic life by way of an exhibitionary logic that dictates the way objects or subjects are classified, their arrangement in space, their status as art or artifact, their contextualization, their animation and mode of display. We also pay attention to specific moments in American public history when these “agencies of display” were used in the service of nation-building to forward distinct—and often competing—notions of Jews in American life as both “curiosities, freaks or archeological specimens” on the one hand, or enthusiastic embracers of the American assimilationist dream, on the other. Students will have the opportunity to participate directly in creating and/or critiquing this process of cultural production—either through original field research of a local exhibitionary site; planning and designing a specific mode of display; or providing a critical analysis of an historic example of this production. The class includes two museum field trips to explore exhibits in which Jews are represented in very different “exhibitionary complexes”: San Antonio’s UT Institute of Texan Cultures where Jews are represented as one of the 20 original “ethnic groups” who settled Texas; and The Texas State History Museum’s temporary exhibit, “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to American Through Galveston Island”, where Jews are represented and constituted through a set of restrictive immigration practices, as weak chested “public charges”; ladies of the night; contaminated bodies; racial polluters; or disruptive “anarchists.’


Edward Lowenthal. 1997: Preserving Memory: The Making of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Penguin Books. Frederic Brenner: Jews, America: A Representation/photographs by Frederic Brenner; with an essay by Simon Schama (note: arrangements will be made to have this book available for students in PCL so that they will not be required to buy the text) Qurantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 Susan L Braunstein and Jenna Weissman Joselit 1990. Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950. The Jewish Museum (or BKG article in this volume: Kitchen Judaism) Ivan Davidson Kalmar and Derek Johathan Penslar. 2004. Orientalism and the Jews. Hanover; University Press of New England. Course Packet: Representations of Jews in American Public Culture.


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