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Jewish “Diasporic Humor” and Contemporary Jewish-American Identity

Roberta Rosenberg
Shofar
Vol. 33, No. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 110-138
Published by: Purdue University Press
DOI: 10.5703/shofar.33.3.110
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5703/shofar.33.3.110
Page Count: 29
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Jewish “Diasporic Humor” and Contemporary Jewish-American Identity
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Abstract

Abstract In their 1993 essay on diaspora and identity, Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin reject “diaspora” as a site of persecution and fear and instead argue that “the [new] lesson of Diaspora, namely, that peoples and lands are not naturally and organically connected … can teach us that it is possible for a people to maintain its distinctive culture, its difference, without controlling land, a fortiori without controlling other people.” I argue that the Boyarins' new “diaspora” has been incorporated into contemporary Jewish American humor and provides assimilated Jews a way to create humor in a multicultural world. The Boyarins' diasporic thinking can be applied to diverse contemporary Jewish comedic texts like Roth's “The Conversion of the Jews,” Englander's “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” and Auslander's Hope, A Tragedy. Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David also reject traditional forms of Jewish comedy (the need for group identity and solidarity in the face of suffering, persecution, genocide, powerlessness) in favor of an emancipated diaspora that maintains identity while it is outer directed and engages the Other.

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