"I feel like those desert nomads, always in-between": An analysis of contemporary Jewish identity
Fox, Nicole S.
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This project emerges out of the rich data derived from ethnographic interviews conducted with 20 American Jews during 2007. It is an effort to locate the compromises and conflicted understandings in which Jews articulate their own experiences, memories and identities. It is also an effort to understand identity through multiple lenses such as ethnicity, historical and generational memory, and national identities. Furthermore, I aim to explore how epistemology and discourse from previous generations affect the understandings and meanings of identity in this specific sample, as many participants were well versed in Jewish studies, critical whiteness studies, and women's studies. This study analyzes Jewish identity in the specific context of third generation Holocaust survivors (the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors). In analyzing this identity I seek to illuminate the diversity of this identity by understanding how gender, relationship to Israel, and intergenerational transmission of trauma structures an understanding of the self, Jewish identity and the larger international community. This identity is formed by some shared experiences, often with anti-Semitism, shared cultures and histories (both real and imagined), and collective memories of the Holocaust and other historical events. At the same time, power structures of nationalism, gender, class, and ethnicity mark differences between the participants and show the diversity and heterogeneity of this identity. This complex argument relies on theories of identity, nationalism, memory, and gender. There are three central facets of American Jewish identity that I will be analyzing in this project: the social and historical construction of Jewish whiteness; intergenerational transmission of memory, trauma and history; and American Zionist nationalism.