Jewish Popular Culture in the Research Perspective of European Ethnology.


The analysis of Jewish popular culture has to include the methodological and sociological background of an institutionalized Jewish ethnology whose foundation 1898 in Hamburg reacted to a deep crisis of Jewish identity in Western Europe. On the other side it must be stated that "Volkskunde " as a national and nationalistic science never regarded the Jews as part of the national culture. The destruction of European Jewish culture by the nationalsocialistic terror makes it today still more difficult to reconstruct Jewish life manners and conditions before the holocaust. Many modern studies on this subject are content with the description of surface phenomena and present a lot of misinterpretations because they take no notice of Jewish sources. But the historiography of Jewish culture demands the discussion of Jewish religious and cultural identity and its arrangement with non- and anti-Jewish life conditions in order to obtain a holographic view of popular culture. It will demonstrate cultural processes and symbiotic structures and lead to a more precise observation of changes, the structure of acceptance and isolation and its background in individual, collective and religious consciousness. Last, but not least, the recognition of the Jews as part of the historical culture shows the intellectual and economic importance of a minority in creating popular culture which on its side cannot be defined by neglecting one of its most active factors.

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Daxelmüller, C., (1985) “Jewish Popular Culture in the Research Perspective of European Ethnology.”, Ethnologia Europaea 16(1), 97-116. doi:


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Christoph Daxelmüller (Universität Freiburg)



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