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Nationalism, “Philosemitism,” and Symbolic Boundary-Making in Contemporary Poland

  • Geneviève Zubrzycki (a1)

This article analyzes the growing interest in Jews and all things Jewish in contemporary Poland—from the spectacular popularity of festivals of Jewish culture to the opening of Judaica bookstores and Jewish cuisine restaurants; from the development of Jewish studies programs at various universities and the creation of several museums to artists’ and public intellectuals’ engagements with Poland's Jewish past and Polish-Jewish relations more broadly. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, over sixty formal interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish activists, and informal conversations with participants in various Jewish-centered initiatives, I argue that this cultural phenomenon is related to the attempt by specific political and social groups to build a pluralistic society in an ethnically and denominationally homogenous nation-state. I build on the literature on nationalism and symbolic boundaries by showing that bringing back Jewish culture and “resurrecting the Jew” is a way to soften, stretch, and reshape the symbolic boundaries of the nation that the Right wants to harden and shrink using Catholicism as its main tool.

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