Insiders and Outsiders
Insiders and Outsiders examines problems of Jewish cultural and political orientation, association, and self-identification in eastern Europe, sometimes from a Jewish perspective and sometimes from that of the majority society. Following an overview by the distinguished intellectual historian of German Jewry Steven Aschheim, who offers stimulating thoughts on the insider/outsider dilemma in modern times and its relevance to eastern Europe, scholars of history, art history, and literature illuminate the nuances and intricacies of the topic. The discussion evolves around three major themes: the cultural conundrum; modes of acculturation, assimilation, and identity; and the minority's inclusion in or exclusion from the political agendas of east European societies. It concludes with a focus on two remarkable cities - Czernowitz and Vilnius - where the Jewish minority has often been conceived as being no less 'inside' than other groups. In the cultural conundrum section, a consideration of artists and writers from Romania and Poland shows the multi-layered influences on their creativity while underscoring the dilemmas they faced in seeking points of meeting between their Jewish background and their national identity. In the section on acculturation, assimilation, and identity, the ways in which multiethnic and multi-national situations demand that the 'outsider', consciously or unconsciously, develop inner strategies to fashion a specific identity are examined in detail. Focusing on Czechoslovakia and Poland between the two world wars and the city of Lwow in the late nineteenth century, it presents some of the choices Jews made in changing political and cultural contexts in which questions of belonging and not belonging, the fluidity of identity, and the reconfiguration of physical, mental, social, and geographical borders acquired special relevance and urgency. The section on society and politics considers questions such as how Jews as 'outsiders' configured their political allegiance in eastern Europe, what tactics they employed to safeguard their future in such societies, how they galvanized the 'Jewish street', as well as the problematic terrain of 'Jewish informers', the 'non-Jewish Jew', and 'Jewish politics'.
Publication Date: 2/1/2010