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Negotiating traditions: transformations of Jewish identities and community building in post-Soviet Odessa, Ukraine

Sapritsky, Marina (2010) Negotiating traditions: transformations of Jewish identities and community building in post-Soviet Odessa, Ukraine. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Against the background of mass emigration, religious revival and social and political transformations in the former Soviet Union, specifically Ukraine, this thesis describes and analyses change and continuity in the Jewish way of life in contemporary Odessa. Odessan Jews - continuous residents and return migrants - engage in many different processes of identity formation and community building, negotiating Jewish traditions, values, practices and orientations. Through ethnographic analysis of individual and communal affairs, this thesis examines the everyday life of a post-Soviet ethnoreligious minority group open to competing cultural models, lifestyles and social norms that derive from different contexts: individual, family, community, city, state and transnational connections. Part I "Jewish life in Odessa: Memory and Contested History" focuses on the city's history and its legacy and myth as an open, cosmopolitan and Jewish city perceived as a "distinct place" within Russia, the Soviet Union and present-day Ukraine. These historical chapters not only provide the necessary background for understanding Odessa today but also challenge the highly negative and monolithic picture of Soviet Jewish experiences that often ignores the influences of specific urban cultures on the development of varying Jewish orientations. Part II "Jewish Revival: The View from Within and from Outside" concentrates on contemporary Odessa and focuses on the phenomena of local Jewish revival, mainly driven by international Jewish organizations and shaped by their differing agendas in the region. These chapters explore the various ways in which Odessan Jews selectively appropriate, explore and contest these new visions and practices of Jewish life that in effect offer an arena of novel orientations. At the same time, vital questions are posed about the overall goals and achievements of Jewish philanthropy projects in the former Soviet Union. Part III "Home in the Diaspora" deals with the processes of Jewish migration and analyses the various ways that continuous residents, visiting and returning Jews orient themselves to Odessa as a locale in relation to other destinations, including Israel, that partially define their sense of themselves as Odessan Jews. Chapter 7, in particular, poses the 3 question whether it is still meaningful to refer to Odessa as a Jewish city in the light of the changing demographics of its Jewish population and the altered status and orientation of the city's remaining Jews. In response, the thesis argues that Jewishness is envisioned as a metonym of cosmopolitan Odessa and that the fight for its recognition as a Jewish place is, by extension, a battle for the city's historically constituted - albeit diminished - cosmopolitanism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Marina Sapritsky
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Feuchtwang, Stephan and Fuller, Chris
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/4164

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