Cool Jewz: Contemporary Jewish Identity in Popular Culture
This call-for-papers is for a proposed book collection which the University
of Wales Press has expressed great interest in as an inaugural volume to a
new series of books on Jewish Popular Culture.
Something has shifted in regards to the perception of Jewish identity within
(predominantly, by not exclusively) North American popular culture. It
appears that being Jewish has suddenly become "cool"; it is hip to be a Jew.
In the first half of the 20th Century, Jewish popular culture was largely
assimilationist: Jewish performers tried to hide their ethnic roots through
make-up (blackface, in particular) and name changes. But really beginning in
the 1960s and coming into fruition in the 1970s, Jewish performers stopped
hiding their Jewish ancestry - Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Bette
Midler and Woody Allen to name just a few. In part, these performers
physically couldn't hide their ethnicity - they just looked "too Jewish" -
but they also realized that their ethnic identity was what marked them as
different and unique in the entertainment world. These performers' talents
also came from their Jewish backgrounds. And yet, as popular as these
performers were and continue to be, their roles were always that of an
outsider; thankfully, the culture at the time was embracing the outsider,
but they were outsiders nonetheless.
But over the past decade, a new breed of Jewish performer has emerged: one
which not only embraces and foregrounds their Jewishness, but has ceased to
be the outsider. These performers are Jewish insiders. They are the fashion
icons within popular culture, icons for emulation, not just popularity,
appealing to both Jews and non-Jews. Stars like Ben Stiller, Selma Blair,
Adam Sandler and Madonna's conversion to Judaism via Kabbalah are just a few
examples. While this dynamic is perhaps most notable within popular film, it
is also occurring within other forms of popular culture like publishing
(Heeb Magazine), popular music (The Ramones and They Might be Giants), and
television (Will and Grace) to name just a few examples.
This collection seeks to explore these changes within Jewish popular culture
and the representations of Jews within popular culture. Topics can include,
but are not limited to:
* The new breed of Jewish stars: Adam Sandler, Selma Blair, Ben
* The rise in the popularity of Kabbalah through the more famous
converts like Madonna & Guy Ritchie, Demi Moore & Anton Kutchner.
* The changing representation of Jews in film and on television,
i.e. Will and Grace, The Hebrew Hammer.
* Jewish popular music: not just The Ramones or They Might be
Giants, but also the Klezmer revival, including such bands as The Klezmatics
or Yid Vicious.
* The emergence of a "new" Jewish press, with magazines like Heeb.
* Jewish popular culture outside of North America (i.e Moni
Ovadia's theatre work in Italy), or comparisons/contrasts between
North-American models and those from international Jewish quarters.
Please send abstracts (250-350 words) and a brief biography of yourself to
Mikel J. Koven ([log in to unmask]) by 14 March 2005. Completed essays will be
due in by 30 May 2005, and assuming few delays, the actual book should be
out by the end of 2006.
In addition, as the University of Wales Press envision Cool Jewz to
inaugurate a new book series in Jewish Popular Culture, if you have book
projects or proposals relevant to this series, please send them to Mikel J.
Koven ([log in to unmask]) by the March deadline. Proposals will, of course, be
accepted after that, however this series needs to be formally accepted based
on the strength of these first proposals.
Dr. Mikel J. Koven
Lecturer, Dept of Theatre, Film and Television Studies
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
[log in to unmask]
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