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Diaspora as a Model: On the Transfer of the Motif of 'The Stateless Nation' between Polish Nationalism and Zionism

This Horizons of Knowledge lecture is co-sponsored by the Borns JSP, Russian and East European Institute, and the Polish Studies Center

Professor Marcos Silber, Department of Jewish History, University of Haifa

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
4:00 pm
Global & International Studies Building, Room 1060

Dr. Silber's lecture addresses the deep interrelations between the Polish and Zionist national movements during the period of their formations till World War One, arguing that what the literature often discusses as idiosyncratic nation-building motifs, is actually formed as a result of mutual and reciprocal transfer processes between two close political-cultural systems: Polish nationalism and Zionism. Dealing with a theme each perceives as central in its ethos: 'the stateless nation'. Dr. Silber discusses that motifs, metaphors, discourses and practices of one movement were developed in the light of the other during a process of mutual interaction.

Claiming that it is the result of a recursive interpretive process, ostensibly key elements of the Zionist ethos were absorbed from the Polish national ethos at fin de siècle; but in fact these were previously adopted and adapted by the Polish National movement from Jewish sources. In light of the crisis of the Polish partition and the failure of the Polish revolts, Polish intellectual elite, with the Polish national bard Adam Mickiewicz as the main agent, appropriated Jewish eschatological motifs into the Polish national discourse, resulting in the polonization of "Jewish" motifs. Later on, towards the end of the 19th century, young Polonized Jews in Galicia and Congress Poland who were rejected by Polish nationalists, re-interpreted the now 'Polish' motifs in a Jewish national spirit. The result was that each of the two national movements adopted the other's motives, re-designed them and finally denied the process which produced them, so that they looked as idiosyncratic and essential theme in their ethos.

Dr. Marcos Silber is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa, Chair of the Department of Jewish History as well as the head of the Program for the Study of Polish-Jewish History and Culture and the. His fields of research are Jewish culture and Politics in 20th century Poland and Lithuania. He has written on Polish-Israeli relations and mutual migrations, on Jewish Diaspora Nationalism in Poland, Lithuania and Russia in early 20th century as well as on Yiddish and Polish cinema and popular culture in inter-war Poland.

His book Different Nationality, Equal Citizenship! The Efforts to Achieve Autonomy for Polish Jewry during the First World War (Hebrew) was published by Tel Aviv University Press and Shazar Center for Jewish History in 2014.

Major Publications: With Szymon Rudnicki published: Polish Israeli Diplomatic Relations, a selection of documents (1945 -1967) (Polish version: Warsaw 2009; Hebrew version: Jerusalem 2009). Published, among others, in: Galed, Michael, Journal of Baltic Studies, Journal of Israeli History, Polin, Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook, Shvut, Tzion, Yiunim le-Tekumat, Israel and elsewhere.

He is preparing a monograph on the transference of cultural motifs and practices between Polish and Jewish nationalism from the middle of the 19th century through the 1950s.