Jews and Popular Culture in 1960’s Czechoslovakia

11 April 2017 - 5 PM

Ilana Miller (University of Chicago)

Was there such a thing as “Jewish popular culture” under communism? In this presentation, I use data collected from the publishing and film industries to examine moments of increased popularity in Jewish themes in Czechoslovak culture. While the rapid rise in interest in Jewish themes in post-communist culture has been written about extensively, few have taken seriously the possibility of widespread interest in Jewish themes under communism. By examining trends in mainstream literary and cinematic culture, I show that the 1960’s boom in interest in Jewish themes rivalled the post-communist period. While the post-communist period was heavily influenced by foreign and external cultural trends, communist era literature and films were far more domestic—both in their creation as well as in their themes and focus. Using distribution and publication data, reviews, movie posters and illustrations, this presentation explores the characteristics and qualities of Jewish popular culture under communism, particularly the role that Jewish themes played during the era of communist reform.

Illustrations by Zdeněk Chotěnovský from Hana Bělohradská, Bez krásy, bez límce (1964).

About

Modern Jewish History Seminar

The seminar is intended to provide a platform for academic discussion about the latest research on Jewish history especially of the last three centuries. Though primarily focused on the Jews of central and east central Europe, the seminar also includes topics related to the Jews of other regions. The seminar is further enriched by including topics not directly concerned with Jews, but enabling one to see Jewish history from other perspectives (for instance, the perspective of other marginalized communities).

Despite our preference for the methods of historical research, the organizers welcome multidisciplinary approaches to the topics, including those of sociology, political science, religious studies, and art history.

The seminar is held in the library of CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1 always at 5:30 p.m. The language of the seminar is English. The seminar is organized by Kateřina Čapková and Michal Frankl. Since 2018/2019 the seminar is included into the MA program of the Prague Center for Jewish Studies at the Charles University. Due to Michal Frankl’s stay abroad this academic year, all the questions and suggestions should be sent to Kateřina Čapková (capkova@usd.cas.cz).

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