Sociology Confronts the Holocaust

Memories and Identities in Jewish Diasporas

Sociology Confronts the Holocaust

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 1 table Published: July 2007

Religious Studies, Sociology

This volume expands the intellectual exchange between researchers working on the Holocaust and post-Holocaust life and North American sociologists working on collective memory, diaspora, transnationalism, and immigration. The collection is comprised of two types of essays: primary research examining the Shoah and its aftermath using the analytic tools prominent in recent sociological scholarship, and commentaries on how that research contributes to ongoing inquiries in sociology and related fields.

Contributors explore diasporic Jewish identities in the post-Holocaust years; the use of sociohistorical analysis in studying the genocide; immigration and transnationalism; and collective action, collective guilt, and collective memory. In so doing, they illuminate various facets of the Holocaust, and especially post-Holocaust, experience. They investigate topics including heritage tours that take young American Jews to Israel and Eastern Europe, the politics of memory in Steven Spielberg’s collection of Shoah testimonies, and the ways that Jews who immigrated to the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union understood nationality, religion, and identity. Contributors examine the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 in light of collective action research and investigate the various ways that the Holocaust has been imagined and recalled in Germany, Israel, and the United States. Included in the commentaries about sociology and Holocaust studies is an essay reflecting on how to study the Holocaust (and other atrocities) ethically, without exploiting violence and suffering.

Contributors. Richard Alba, Caryn Aviv, Ethel Brooks, Rachel L. Einwohner, Yen Le Espiritu, Leela Fernandes, Kathie Friedman, Judith M. Gerson, Steven J. Gold , Debra R. Kaufman, Rhonda F. Levine , Daniel Levy, Jeffrey K. Olick, Martin Oppenheimer, David Shneer, Irina Carlota Silber, Arlene Stein, Natan Sznaider, Suzanne Vromen, Chaim Waxman, Richard Williams, Diane L. Wolf


“[G]roundbreaking.” — Ronit Lentin, International Sociology

“Ethnicity is now regarded in a much more positive light, and the younger generation of scholars, less influenced by the above considerations, is unself-conscious about engaging in research on the Holocaust or Judaism. This volume is proof of the shift.” — William Helmreich, Studies in Contemporary Jewry

“Gerson and Wolf’s book is essential reading for anyone, sociologists and non-sociologists alike, who wishes to enhance his or her understanding of this paradigmatic historical event.” — Ronald J. Berger, Shofar

“The collection is particularly significant because the editors and contributors have sought to bring Holocaust studies from its ‘academic ghetto,’ by which they mean the lack of cross-fertilization with other academic disciplines. . . . The essays, although varied in content and focus, are lucid and thought-provoking. Any could stand alone, but together they create a cohesive conversation that represents a variety of viewpoints and disciplines. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.” — S. E. Imhoff, Choice

“This book makes a valuable contribution to the area of Holocaust Studies, and also to Migration, Diasporic, Gender, and modern Jewish Studies. . . . I found all of the articles, the major essays and the commentaries, informative and insightful.” — Morton Weinfeld, Canadian Journal of Sociology

“This volume is a welcome addition to the field of Holocaust studies. In seeking to address the gap in the sociological study of ethnic and religious genocide, the book brings together a diverse group of social thinkers, each of whom offers a unique and important sociological approach to the study of the Holocaust.” — Janet Jacobs, Contemporary Sociology

Sociology Confronts the Holocaust does not simply reflect a field: It creates one. The productive movement back and forth between the particular case of the Holocaust and general conceptual concerns of sociology is a substantial intellectual achievement.” — Robert Zussman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“While research on the Holocaust exists in a variety of disciplines, a sociology of the Holocaust has yet to be fully developed and articulated. This book therefore fills a significant gap in Holocaust studies, bringing a much needed theoretical and empirical perspective to the field.” — Janet Liebman Jacobs, author of Hidden Heritage: The Legacy of the Crypto-Jews


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Judith M. Gerson is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, where she is also an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Jewish Studies.

Diane L. Wolf is Professor of Sociology and a member of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Beyond Anne Frank: Hidden Children and Postwar Families in Holland.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Part 1: Reconsidering Holocaust Study

Introduction: Why the Holocaust? Why Sociology? Why Now? / Judith M. Gerson and Diane L. Wolf 3

Sociology and Holocaust Study / Judith M. Gerson and Diane L. Wolf 11

Part 2: Jewish Identities in the Diaspora

Post-memory and Post-Holocaust Jewish Identity Narratives / Debra Renee Kaufman 39

The Holocaust, Orthodox Jewry, and the American Jewish Community / Chaim I. Waxman 55

Traveling Jews, Creating Memory: Eastern Europe, Israel, and the Diaspora Business / Caryn Aviv and David Shneer 67

Trauma Stories, Identity Work, and the Politics of Recognition / Arlene Stein 84

Responses to the Holocaust: Discussing Jewish Identity Through the Perspective of Social Construction / Richard Williams 92

Part 3: Memory, Memoirs, and Post-Memory

In Cuba I was a German Shepherd: Questions of Comparison and Generalizability in Holocaust Memoirs / Judith M. Gerson 115

Collective Memory and Cultural Politics: Narrating and Commemorating the Rescue of Jewish Children by Belgian Convents during the Holocaust / Suzanne Vromen 134

Holocaust Testimony: Producing Post-memories, Producing Identities / Diane L. Wolf 154

Survivor Testimonies, Holocaust Memoirs: Violence in Latin America / Irina Carlota Silber 176

Historicizing and Locating Testimonies / Ethel Brooks 185

Part 4: Immigration and Transnational Practices

In the Land of Milk and Cows: Rural German Jewish Refugees and Post-Holocaust Adaptation / Rhonda F. Levine 197

Post-Holocaust Jewish migration: From Refugees to Transnationals / Steven J. Gold 215

“On Halloween We Dressed Up Like KGB Agents”: Reimagining Soviet Jewish Refugee Identities in the United States / Kathie Friedman 236

The Paradigmatic Status of Jewish Immigration / Richard Alba 260

Circuits and Networks: The Case of the Jewish Diaspora / Yen Le Espiritu 266

Part 5: Collective Action, Collective Guilt, Collective Memory

Availability, Proximity, and Identity in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Adding a Sociological Lens to Studies of Jewish Resistance / Rachel L. Einwohner 277

The Agonies of Defeat: “Other Germanies” and the Problem of Collective Guilt / Jeffrey K. Olick 291

The Cosmpolitanization of Holocaust Memory: From Jewish to Human Experience / Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider 313

The Sociology of Knowledge and the Holocaust: A Critique / Martin Oppenheimer 331

Violence, Representation, and the Nation / Leela Fernandes 337

Bibliography 345

Contributors 385

Index 391
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3999-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3982-3
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