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Going to the People

Going to the People: Jews and the Ethnographic Impulse

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 364
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19qghd3
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    Going to the People
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-01916-5
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-24)
    JEFFREY VEIDLINGER

    In the spring of 1873 a manifesto written by an ad hoc group of populists based in St. Petersburg began circulating among Russian university students: “Go to the people and tell it the whole truth to the very last word. Tell it that man must live according to the law of nature. According to this law all men are equal; all men are born naked, all men are born equally small and weak.”¹ The following summer, the summer of 1874, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students abandoned their universities and went into the countryside “to the people.” These urban students and...

  5. 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 (pp. 27-44)
      NATHANIEL DEUTSCH

      In his foreword toNumber Our Days, Barbara Myerhoff’s now classic work of Jewish ethnography, Victor Turner invoked the Indian anthropologist M. N. Srinivas’s concept of the “thrice-born” to explain—and praise—Myerhoff’s approach to her fieldwork in a community of elderly Jews of Eastern European origin now transplanted to a senior center in Los Angeles. Srinivas, a Brahmin and therefore “twice born” according to traditional Hindu belief, “urged anthropologists … to go one stage further. We were to seek to be ‘thrice-born.’ The first birth is our natal origin in a particular culture. The second is our move from...

    • 2 Between Scientific and Political: JEWISH SCHOLARS AND RUSSIAN-JEWISH PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE FIN-DE-SIÈCLE RUSSIAN EMPIRE (pp. 45-63)
      MARINA MOGILNER

      Recent and burgeoning scholarship on Jewish ethnographic self-fashioning in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union has focused primarily on those who “went to the people” to discover, catalogue, salvage, invent, interpret, learn from, normalize, nationalize, territorialize, or revolutionize their culture.¹ Culture was the central category of humanist scholarship focused on the phenomenon of “the people,” which explains its paradoxical persistence during the epoch of rising nationalisms and collapsing empires, revolutions and world wars. Even “cultural revolutions” could not question the centrality of “culture” in its essentialist rendering because culture was perceived as a projection of “peoples” (or nations) in...

    • 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 (pp. 64-84)
      SERGEI KAN

      Like Jewish scholarship in general, Jewish ethnography in the Soviet Union had a rather short life span. It enjoyed a brief period of relative freedom for about a decade after the Bolshevik coup, persisted for two decades within rigid ideological boundaries, and then came almost to a standstill after World War II in an atmosphere of state-sponsored antisemitism.¹ In the 1920s the ideology ofkorenizatsiia, with its promotion of the use of the local minority languages in education, “cultural construction,” and local administration, which dominated the new regime’s policy on nationalities during that time, created a favorable climate for the...

    • 4 “What Should We Collect?”: ETHNOGRAPHY, LOCAL STUDIES, AND THE FORMATION OF A BELORUSSIAN JEWISH IDENTITY (pp. 85-99)
      ELISSA BEMPORAD

      These are not the words of a fieldworker from An-sky’s ethnographic expedition collecting folklore through the “Dark Continent,” as historian Simon Dubnow contemptibly labeled the Pale of Settlement. From 1912 to 1914, with a team of musicologists and photographers, the writer, revolutionary, and ethnographer S. An-sky embarked on an expedition to document the lives of the masses in the Pale. The fieldworkers traveled to more than sixty shtetls to uncover the people and their artifacts, folk tales, legends, proverbs, cemeteries, superstitions, incantations, and melodies.²

      The aforementioned words, however, were those of ayoung zamler, a collector of folklore, who explored...

    • 5 Yiddish Folklore and Soviet Ideology during the 1930s (pp. 100-118)
      MIKHAIL KRUTIKOV

      In the conclusion of his comprehensive history of Jewish folklore studies in Russia, Mark Kiel states, “Jewish folkloristics was born out of ideology, not nostalgia. In the Soviet Union it died because of an ideology which could not make room for it, though not before demonstrating some remarkable instances of creativity in scholarship, literature, art and music.”¹ Kiel ends his story in 1931, which he correctly identifies as the beginning of the Stalinist “Sovietization” of Jewish folkloristics, a period when Soviet Jewish folklorists “were forced to speak with masks” if they “desired to say more than what was permitted.”² The...

    • 6 After An-sky: I. M. PUL’NER AND THE JEWISH SECTION OF THE STATE MUSEUM OF ETHNOGRAPHY IN LENINGRAD (pp. 119-145)
      DEBORAH YALEN

      In a memo dated June 4, 1941, Yehoshu’a (Isaiah Mendelevich) Pul’ner, the director of the Jewish Section of the State Museum of Ethnography in Leningrad (hereafter sme) outlined his plans to conduct ethnographic research among Jews in “Western Ukraine” and “Western Belorussia” later in the month. These territories constituted regions of Poland that had been forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union (“liberated,” in Stalinist rhetoric) according to the secret terms of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact concluded in August 1939. As a result of the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland, entire Jewish communities came under Soviet control.¹ In his memo to...

    • 7 “Sacred Collection Work”: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YIVO AND ITS ZAMLERS (pp. 146-163)
      SARAH ELLEN ZARROW

      Avrom Karpinovich, the Vilna-born Yiddish writer whose favorite subject was the city, wrote “Der folklorist” about a fictionalzamler, an avocational collector, for yivo (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut), the Yiddish Scientific Institute that had been founded in Berlin in 1925 and moved to Vilna two years later. Rubinshteyn, Karpinovich goes on to tell the reader, “had gotten it into his head that all Vilna speech must be saved, because if it were lost, God forbid [kholile], it would be a great loss for culture. Due to his love of folklore, he even remained a bachelor. How many matches they proposed, and...

    • 8 The Last Zamlers: AVROM SUTZKEVER AND SHMERKE KACZERGINSKI IN VILNA, 1944–1945 (pp. 164-174)
      DAVID E. FISHMAN

      On July 13, 1944, the day that Vilna, the “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” was liberated from German occupation by the Soviet army, one of the city’s most illustrious sons, the Yiddish poet and partisan Avrom Sutzkever, found himself in a writers’ sanitarium in Voskresensk, outside Moscow. When he read the news, splashed across the front page ofPravda, his reaction was immediate: “I can’t stay here…. I must go to my home city and see our destruction.” He left for Moscow and went straight to Justas Paleckis, the titular president in exile of Soviet Lithuania. Paleckis had, five months earlier, convinced...

  6. PART II. FINDINGS FROM THE FIELD
    • 9 Ethnography and Folklore among Polish Jews in Israel: IMMIGRATION AND INTEGRATION (pp. 177-192)
      HAYA BAR-ITZHAK

      An examination of how the definition of “folklore” has changed from the eighteenth century to the present can explain why research was focused on particular groups and why certain questions were asked about them. Romanticism and the rise of nationalism in Europe, which stimulated the study of folklore, saw that study as mainly involving what Herder called the “ancient national spirit.” Accordingly, the group that was deemed most appropriate for study was the peasantry, considered to be a relatively stable group that had not yet been “spoiled” by civilization.¹ This led to the prevalent assumption that the songs and stories...

    • 10 The Use of Hebrew and Yiddish in the Rituals of Contemporary Jewry of Bukovina and Bessarabia (pp. 193-204)
      ALEXANDRA POLYAN

      In a seminal 1959 article, Charles Ferguson coined the term “diglossia” to describe situations in which a single “speech community” uses two or more varieties of the same language under different conditions. Usually a standardized version of the language is designated as a high variant and local dialects are designated as low.¹ Although Ferguson focused on cases in which the registers are variants of the same language, subsequent scholars have since applied this model to communities in which two unrelated languages coexist, such as Arabic and Turkish in the Ottoman Empire, Latin and German in medieval Europe, or Yiddish and...

    • 11 Food and Faith in the Soviet Shtetl (pp. 205-218)
      JEFFREY VEIDLINGER

      Minutes after Dov-Ber Kerler and I first met Khayke Gvinter on the streets of Bershad in 2002 while interviewing Yiddish speakers for our oral history and linguistic project, she was offering us gefilte fish. When we explained that we had to be on our way, she sent her husband, Yuzik, across the yard into her home, to bring us some of her homemade fish, wrapped in paper. “For the road,” she insisted. She made her gefilte fish just like her mother did, and could even pull up carrots from the very same garden. The passing on of food traditions, always...

    • 12 Undzer Rebenyu: RELIGION, MEMORY, AND IDENTITY IN POSTWAR MOLDOVA (pp. 219-236)
      SEBASTIAN Z. SCHULMAN

      When applied to the study of the past, the ethnographic approach allows for keen insight into overlooked events, ignored historical actors, and marginalized social groups whose presence has been diminished or lost in the traditional historical record. For more recent historical events, these anthropology-influenced methodologies are often engaged to produce what has come to be known as “microhistory,” or those studies that provide a tight focus on the local in order to shed light on broader matters and contexts. As Carlo Ginzburg writes on the genre, “A close-up look permits us to grasp what eludes a comprehensive viewing, and vice...

  7. PART III. REFLECTIONS ON THE ETHNOGRAPHIC IMPULSE
    • 13 Ex-Soviet Jews: COLLECTIVE AUTOETHNOGRAPHY (pp. 239-255)
      LARISA FIALKOVA and MARIA YELENEVSKAYA

      The method of autoethnography is comparatively new. Even its spelling has not stabilized yet: in some sources it appears as one word while in others it is hyphenated. One of the key figures theorizing its application, Carolyn Ellis, attributes the coining of the term to David Hayano. However, Hayano refutes his authorship and writes that he first heard it in 1966 in Sir Raymond Firth’s structuralism seminar.¹ Techniques of autoethnography became widespread in qualitative research only in the 1980s–1990s and are closely related to interest in narratives. Autoethnography is a method of studying one’s own people in which the...

    • 14 Family Pictures at an Exhibition: HISTORY, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, AND THE MUSEUM EXHIBIT ON JEWISH ŁÓDŹ “IN MRS. GOLDBERG’S KITCHEN” (pp. 256-281)
      HALINA GOLDBERG

      In my parents’ home any time was a story time. Sure, sometimes tales were told during leisurely strolls through old Łodź; other times over dessert at the old-fashioned café at the Grand Hotel. But most often they unfolded at my parents’ dining table—the hearth of family and social life—during the carefully choreographed meals that organized my parents’ retired lives around food. Some stories were narrated during breakfast, while we took delight in lox andmatiasherring (good herring is better than the best lox, Dad would say), accompanied by the obligatory single shot of medicinal cognac that was...

    • 15 Seamed Stockings and Ponytails: CONDUCTING ETHNOGRAPHIC FIELDWORK IN A CONTEMPORARY HASIDIC COMMUNITY (pp. 282-300)
      ASYA VAISMAN SCHULMAN

      Beginning with the expeditions of S. An-sky in 1912, the ethnography of Ashkenazic Jews has focused geographically on Jews living within the former Pale of Settlement or on immigrants from the area. In the twenty-first century, however, the largest population of Yiddish-speaking Jews consists of second- and third-generation residents of Hasidic communities worldwide, including New York, Jerusalem, London, Antwerp, Montreal, and Vienna. In Hasidic communities, Yiddish was retained (or sometimes reinstituted) as one of the markers ofyidishkayt, along with other traditional markers, such as dress, food, and folk customs. After the Holocaust and the reestablishment of Hasidic communities in...

  8. PART IV. BY WAY OF CONCLUSION
    • 16 From Function to Frame: THE EVOLVING CONCEPTUALIZATION OF JEWISH FOLKLORE STUDIES (pp. 303-332)
      SIMON J. BRONNER

      The writings of S. An-sky may not have been the first words on Jewish folklore, but, as many of the chapters in this collection have shown, they were instrumental in raising the visibility of folklore in the contentious discourse that arose in the early nineteenth century regarding the stake Jews held in modernity. Signifying a move in Jewish consciousness from a social connection based on ancient sacred texts and theology to more contemporary cultural expressions, An-sky’s vision of folklore was not just about salvaging traditions in the wake of modernization, but was also a symbol for the perpetuation of Jewish...

  9. List of Contributors (pp. 333-336)
  10. INDEX (pp. 337-351)