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From 'undesirable alien' to proud British Jewry: the Jewish immigrant experience in memory and history, 1881 to present

From 'undesirable alien' to proud British Jewry: the Jewish immigrant experience in memory and history, 1881 to present
From 'undesirable alien' to proud British Jewry: the Jewish immigrant experience in memory and history, 1881 to present
This thesis examines the changing representations of the Eastern European Jewish immigrant experience in Britain from the period of mass immigration to the twenty-first century. A broadly generational approach has been adopted, enabling the study to explore the continuity and change within private and popular narratives regarding Jewish immigration and settlement. This structure permits the study to trace the development of popular myths and memory, particularly regarding the Jewish East End. It highlights the generational divisions which have seen facets of Eastern European Jewish culture remembered fondly in popular memory today, compared to their negative portrayal by society during the era of mass immigration. Moreover, this approach explores the development of identity, with 'Eastern European', 'Jewish' and 'English' identities being navigated, contested, and reconciled by the children and grandchildren of the first generation of immigrant Jewry.

Comparisons are made with American popular representations of the Lower East Side, which has been immortalised as the definitive site of American Jewish memory. It is this comparison, alongside the thesis' approach of examining self-representations over time which offers a fresh perspective of Jewish history in Britain. Central to this thesis accordingly, is the wide range of media analysed. Artwork, photographs, memoirs, oral history, exhibitions and museums, are all considered as sources of self-expression available to immigrant Jewry and successive generations. Such materials have been supplemented by governmental and institutional reports, along with depictions of the Jewish East End in film and television. It is by appraising how these sources have represented immigrant Jews and their children, both individually and as part of a larger phenomenon, which underscores the originality of the thesis in engaging with the history and memory of immigrant Jewry.

This thesis has been organised into three, chronologically structured chapters. The first investigates contemporary representations of both immigrant Jewry and the Jewish East End during the period of mass immigration. After discussing the limited amount of written testimony, the chapter focuses on visual representations. Both the visual depictions of nouveau riche immigrants and the artistic creations of talented young artists are considered, with the defensive and 'English' nature of these images assessed. From this foundation, Chapter Two explores the early written testimony of the second generation, defining these as accounts created before the 1960s. Within the chapter the narratives of success and acceptance of notable public figures such as Selig Brodetsky are contrasted with the marginalised counter-narratives of individuals such as socialist author Willy Goldman. The final chapter explores the extent to which early dominant narratives of origin and success have been embraced in private and popular memory by the following generation. Here, the widest selection of materials is assessed, reflecting the increased forms of self-expression available from the 1960s onward. With the Jewish East End regarded as 'disappearing', and a stronger and more confident modern sense of identity, nostalgia for what were originally regarded as undesirable traits flourished within popular memory.
University of Southampton
Hawkins, Samuel
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Hawkins, Samuel
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Kushner, Antony
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Le Foll, Claire
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Hawkins, Samuel (2017) From 'undesirable alien' to proud British Jewry: the Jewish immigrant experience in memory and history, 1881 to present. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 317pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis examines the changing representations of the Eastern European Jewish immigrant experience in Britain from the period of mass immigration to the twenty-first century. A broadly generational approach has been adopted, enabling the study to explore the continuity and change within private and popular narratives regarding Jewish immigration and settlement. This structure permits the study to trace the development of popular myths and memory, particularly regarding the Jewish East End. It highlights the generational divisions which have seen facets of Eastern European Jewish culture remembered fondly in popular memory today, compared to their negative portrayal by society during the era of mass immigration. Moreover, this approach explores the development of identity, with 'Eastern European', 'Jewish' and 'English' identities being navigated, contested, and reconciled by the children and grandchildren of the first generation of immigrant Jewry.

Comparisons are made with American popular representations of the Lower East Side, which has been immortalised as the definitive site of American Jewish memory. It is this comparison, alongside the thesis' approach of examining self-representations over time which offers a fresh perspective of Jewish history in Britain. Central to this thesis accordingly, is the wide range of media analysed. Artwork, photographs, memoirs, oral history, exhibitions and museums, are all considered as sources of self-expression available to immigrant Jewry and successive generations. Such materials have been supplemented by governmental and institutional reports, along with depictions of the Jewish East End in film and television. It is by appraising how these sources have represented immigrant Jews and their children, both individually and as part of a larger phenomenon, which underscores the originality of the thesis in engaging with the history and memory of immigrant Jewry.

This thesis has been organised into three, chronologically structured chapters. The first investigates contemporary representations of both immigrant Jewry and the Jewish East End during the period of mass immigration. After discussing the limited amount of written testimony, the chapter focuses on visual representations. Both the visual depictions of nouveau riche immigrants and the artistic creations of talented young artists are considered, with the defensive and 'English' nature of these images assessed. From this foundation, Chapter Two explores the early written testimony of the second generation, defining these as accounts created before the 1960s. Within the chapter the narratives of success and acceptance of notable public figures such as Selig Brodetsky are contrasted with the marginalised counter-narratives of individuals such as socialist author Willy Goldman. The final chapter explores the extent to which early dominant narratives of origin and success have been embraced in private and popular memory by the following generation. Here, the widest selection of materials is assessed, reflecting the increased forms of self-expression available from the 1960s onward. With the Jewish East End regarded as 'disappearing', and a stronger and more confident modern sense of identity, nostalgia for what were originally regarded as undesirable traits flourished within popular memory.

Text
Sam Hawkins Thesis - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only until 1 December 2020.
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.

More information

Published date: October 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 428630
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/428630
PURE UUID: 1ec9427d-cc1d-4036-801e-ca270f54530c
ORCID for Samuel Hawkins: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8284-8168

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Date deposited: 05 Mar 2019 17:30
Last modified: 24 Jul 2019 00:29

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