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).