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Jews and other “Others” on Global Television

Mon, December 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hilton Bayfront San Diego, Aqua Salon AB

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel poses questions about Jews and other minorities on television and how those differences are expressed. Looking at TV series in the United States, Germany, and Israel, we explore how Jewishness operates on small screens across the globe, especially in relation to other racial and linguistic “others.” Shaina Hammerman will discuss how the myth of black-Jewish dialogue in the U.S., for example, falls into sharp relief when we ask how black and Jewish performers represent each other comically, ultimately arriving at opposite conclusions about what Jewishness signifies. Sonia Gallance will explain how a German miniseries that follows a single family over one hundred years uses dance to promote a multiculturalist agenda that nevertheless exoticizes Jews and others. Finally, Shayna Weiss’ close reading of how minority languages operate on Israeli TV finds that not all non-Hebrew languages are created equally.

Popular television bridges the private in-home viewing experience with national “water cooler” conversations that make it a public practice. Fantasies about national identity, gender and sexuality, and race relations play out in a slow burn as the serialized quality of television makes room for deep relationships to form between audiences and the characters on screen. Both binge watching and weekly viewing opens up new patterns for how Jewishness and other minority identities are leveraged to advance narratives in specific ways. Across three continents, we see contemporary TV-writers and performers contending with the limits and possibilities of multiculturalism. Through this popular medium, an identity politics is crafted for viewers, with Jewish relations to other minorities appearing on screen in service of majoritarian identities.

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