16 Chapters
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16. From Function to Frame: The Evolving Conceptualization of Jewish Folklore Studies

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

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 identity, and ultimately Jewish nationalism.1 An-sky invoked the notion of “expedition” rhetorically, associating it with geographic exploration to suggest the comprehensive charting of traditions in Jewish locales as a way to gauge the viability of these roots as Jews modernized. The scouring of remote locales relatively untouched by industrial movements allowed for contemplation of the evolution of Jewish customs into the present and their comparability to other remote Jewish corners of the world. Yet there was a powerful etiological statement in the presentation of stories and songs hailing from the Pale of Jewish Settlement as a special historic place and social space, that is, a font of yidishkayt defined for the intrepid ethnographers as cultural Jewishness. Folklore from the Pale, particularly for a group without a country, emerged as the poetic soul for Jews elsewhere, and this was a quality to hail, rather than hide, for post-enlightenment Jews.

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10. The Use of Hebrew and Yiddish in the Rituals of Contemporary Jewry of Bukovina and Bessarabia

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

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 Hebrew in pre–World War II Eastern Europe.2

With the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, former vernaculars were transformed into standardized national languages, often rendering speakers of regional variants outsiders. The process of language standardization influenced speakers’ metalinguistic reflection and—in some sense—their Weltanschauung.3 As Susan Gal writes, “Multilingual speakers of regional languages are often stigmatized—and denigrate themselves—for being ‘traditional’ or insufficiently modern, and for the practice of code switching between languages.”4

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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

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

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 of korenizatsiia, 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 study of local Jewish culture, at least in its secular manifestations. However, the country did not have a tradition of Jewish ethnography and lacked specialists in it. The only serious study of Jewish ethnography undertaken before 1917 was the famous ethnographic expedition led by S. An-sky in 1912–1914.2 Its leader, however, left the country during the Civil War, while its findings remained scattered and unpublished.3 Moreover, with the Jews of the Soviet Union not having their own ethnic-based administrative units larger than small settlements, it was more difficult to secure government funding for an ethnographic expedition to study the Jews than to study larger ethnic groups and peoples.4

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9. Ethnography and Folklore among Polish Jews in Israel: Immigration and Integration

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

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 they preserved reflected the ancient national spirit and permitted its reconstruction.

From the mid-nineteenth century, folklore studies in England was influenced by the British anthropology of Edward Tylor, who saw evolution as a reflection of human history. Folklore studies was viewed as a historical discipline that compared and identified archaic survivals of beliefs and customs.2 It was still assumed that these survivals were to be found chiefly in relatively stable populations, and no one imagined that other groups might be appropriate objects of study.

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13. Ex-Soviet Jews: Collective Autoethnography

Edited by Jeffrey Veidlinger Indiana University Press ePub

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 researcher is a full insider by virtue of being “native,” possessing an intimate familiarity with or achieving full membership in the group being studied.2 “The forms of autoethnography differ,” write Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams, and Arthur P. Bochner, “in how much emphasis is placed on the study of others, the researcher’s self and interaction with others, traditional analysis, and the interview context, as well as on power relationships.”3 Autoethnography emerged when many researchers in the field came to realize that the mainstream methods no longer met the requirements of the changing situation in the field. First, a growing number of students belonging to minority groups and non-Western cultures received training as ethnographers and in their own investigations began to question the authority of their Western peers in understanding their own cultures. Second, funding for field research abroad shrank and scholars had to look instead for research topics in their own backyards.4

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