Jews on Display. Exhibiting Jewish History and Culture in the East Central European Context at the beginning of the 21st century

Pr. Karolina Szymaniak

The course explores the ways in which Jewish history and culture are narrated and visualized in the new museum and exhibitions projects in post-communist East Central Europe, and how those museums as public institutions, and curatorial interventions contribute to establishing, (re)shaping, countering or petrifying respective national narratives, the understanding of cultural difference and prejudice. We will discuss the politics of display, and social agency of museums, possible role of museums as sites of cultural therapy and as sites of denial. We will look at the ways contemporary East Central European representations of Jewish culture are rooted in the past, asking questions about practices of othering, Jewish historical subjectivity and agency. We will discuss different ways how minority histories are included into majority context. Finally, we will ask questions how debates about complicity of East Central European societies in the Holocaust influence the way history is narrated in the new museums.

While the point of departure for discussion will be projects and debates originating in Poland, such as the POLIN Museum, the Shtetl Museum in Chmielnik, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the Warsaw Ethnographic Museum, and the Ulma Museum of Poles Saving Jews in the WW2, as well as Erica Lehrer’s exhibition Lucky Jews, other major projects in the region, such as museums in Prague, Budapest, or Vilnius will form a context for our reflection. Participants are also encouraged to present projects originating in their respective countries/cities.

This course was a part of Connecting (to) Histories: Engaging with the Urban Pasts and Displaying Jewish Heritage summer school.

The Ethnographic Jew. Ostjuden, the museum effect and ambi/polivalences of representation

Case study: The Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw; Moishe Vorobeichic, Ein Ghetto im Osten; Erica Lehrer, Lucky Jews

Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998 (fragments)

The Shtetl Nostalgia? – cultural construct and the problem of Jewish spaces on display

Un-Innocent Eye. Jewish Life&Jewish Void in the post-Holocaust era

Beyond representation? Performance&video art, difficult Polish Jewish past, and perils of deconstructions

Ex/inclusion/absorption. Jewish history&culture and contemporary politics of history and memory

Related courses (1)

This cource was born as an attempt to reflect on certain urban phenomena in the 20th century from a transnational perspective. The lectures will tell about the phenomenon of urban scraps and urban fragments in the legacy of modernist painters. We will learn about how the media could be transit phenomena and how art forms could ruin the strong ideological frames. We are going to see how the Lviv Avant-Garde was building, how the street was becoming a source for inspiration of artists of Lviv Modernism, and how street art has been important political self-expression also today.
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