SOJOURNERS: The Return of German Jews and the Question of Identity by John & Jeffrey M. Peck Borneman

SOJOURNERS: The Return of German Jews and the Question of Identity

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Eleven marginally Jewish subjects talk about their lives as Jews in East, West, and united Germany. While Germany abounds with younger Jewish immigrants from Israel and the former Soviet Union who could speak about the inherent conflicts of being Jews in post-Holocaust Germany, Borneman (Anthropology/Cornell Univ.; After the Wall, 1991, etc.) and Peck (German/Georgetown Univ.) have chosen interviewees (several in their 80s) who are Jews in name only (one asks, ""How could we Germans [perpetrate the Holocaust]?"") and are too committed to GDR socialism to convey much conflict about their choice of home country. Moreover, too many of the men and women interviewed here are academics or journalists themselves, including another ethnographer. The authors interrupt the interviews with their often unnecessary analysis to further prevent the reader from interacting with the subjects, and their prose is excruciatingly jargon-laden and pedantic: ""It makes a historical constructivist (i.e., antiracial, antiessentialist) argument, maintaining that Jewish identity is syncretic and entails multiple subject positions."" The book only sputters to life with scattered revelations about decisions to return to Germany, how the reality of Soviet gulags only emerged after Gorbachev, misconceptions held about the US and Israel, the decrease in banality and increase in danger in a united Berlin, and, on the authors' part, why being gay and single facilitates the writing of exorbitant overseas projects like this one. A potentially intriguing subject, but the authors miss the real story by taking such an oddly unrepresentative group of subjects.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska