Jewish Identities

Jewish identity has not yet been the subject of systematic study in Greek anthropology. This seminar is concerned with issues pertaining to the management of Jewish culture and history in contemporary Europe, with Greece as its main focus. This is pursued through an anthropological perspective which favors the ethnographic approach. Some main topics to be discussed are: Jewish communities in Greece and Europe, the politicization of Jewishness, Jewish identity as memory of “pain,” the “absence” in public sphere and the emerging “visibility,” multiculturalist politics in the “new Europe,” contemporary consumerism and commercialization of Jewish culture, and existing filmography.


This seminar aims to enrich the students’ academic experience in the following directions: -Intellectually, for the purpose of enhancing students’ knowledge of the historical phenomena of nation states and nationalism, of minorities and minority politics, and of memory politics. Specifically it aims to teach how political (and politicized) are the processes of emergence of official memory in a modern state, and of the integration of ‘difference’ in official history. Jewish identity is an ideal case-study for the above, while being a new and still unexplored area in Greek anthropology. Therefore the course also aims to constitute a study framework for a student, for the systematization of knowledge on Jewish history and culture, and particularly on what it means to be a Greek Jew today. -Methodologically, for the purpose of further familiarization with ethnography. In this process, students can understand how crucial the life experiences of the subjects themselves are, and how important it is to examine processes of everyday life, i.e., as experienced by the subjects. This is essential in order for the student / ethnographer to have a more advanced understanding of the “political.” -Skill acquisition in public speaking by performing an academic presentation. This is attained by means of oral presentations assigned to the students for each session. The sessions are mainly based on the students’ initiatives on the presentations. -Skill acquisition in writing an academic report at a more advanced level (in the mode of published academic papers). Reports are based on bibliographic research and have a specific structure and consistent argumentation. Our work in the last two instances also involves meetings with each individual student throughout the term.


No prior knowledge is required


1. Introduction-Getting acquainted with basic terms and a historical background 2. From the empire to the nation-state I: Jewish identity in the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire 3. From the empire to the nation-state II: Constructions of Jewishness in the context of a new historical formation, i.e., the mono-cultural nation state 4. Antisemitism and nationalism in the Greek nation state. Thessaloniki (Salonica) as case study 5. (cont.) Discussion on the 1st written assignment 6. Jewishness in the context of modern Greece, with a focus on policies of the new nation state until World War II. 7. Jewish Genocide (“Holocaust”): the Greek experience 8. After the Genocide: Greece, Israel, or elsewhere 9. (cont.) Discussion on the 2nd written assignment 10. On the emergence of “memory” in Europe and Greece I 11. On the emergence of “memory” in Europe and Greece II 12. Reviewing and reflecting on the course Discussion on the 3rd (and final) written assignment Two additional meetings were held for the purpose of two film screenings which were directly related to our topics (please see below).






Instructors: Vasiliki Yiakoumaki
Department: Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology
Institution: University of Thessaly
Subject: Anthropology
Rights: CC - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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