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Exhibiting Jewishness in Cultural Performances: Between the Local and the Global

Mon, December 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Amphitheater

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Jewish cultural performances are often sites of complex negotiations between a specific cultural moment and the ‘Jewishness’ these performances exhibit. Especially in the context of cultural pluralism, there lies between artist and audience a network of ideologies about the performance of Jewishness, the place in which it is performed, and the construction of ethnic identification amid local and global concerns. The three papers in this panel explore various aspects of how Jewishness is exhibited and consumed as a cultural product in the US and UK and the interconnectedness among place, history, and ideas of Jewish identity. The scholars in this panel importantly chart these performances from a variety of perspectives: post-war art festivals in Britain; race relations in the US; and the UK world music scene. Mia Spiro’s examination of Glasgow’s 1951 Jewish Festival of Arts, for example, uncovers the ideologies behind post-war Jewish art festivals in Britain, exposing how the exhibits and events belied anxieties about national belonging in light of the media attention to Nazi atrocities, Jewish refugees, and the founding of the State of Israel. Brett Ashley Kaplan’s paper addresses the instability of racial affiliations between blacks and jews and the performative nature of ethnic identification in relation to Anna Deavere Smith’s one-act play, FIRES IN THE MIRROR, a response to the violence and tensions between Jews and blacks in Crown Heights in 1991. Phil Alexander frames contemporary Jewish musical performances in the UK in a fluid relationship to a post-national music scene and its connection to the city environment, musical cosmopolitanism, and cultural heterogeneity. Each of the panelists thus illuminates the ways in which local performances of Jewishness are rooted social and political moments, while still responding to historically fraught issues such migration, war, nationalism, Otherness, and minority self-construction in respect to ‘mainstream’ culture.

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