School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Like gefilte fish out of water: constructing Jewish femininity in Australia
    Aizen, Rebecca ( 2005)
    This investigation into Jewish femininities in Australia explores Jewish female identity in Australia in light of dominant cultural constructions of Jewish women. Since the post-war period, the majority of images of Jewish women in Australia have been imported from the United States, mainly from television, and these representations of 'gendered ethnicity' are analysed within the context of broader debates about Australia and 'Americanisation', memory, history, and identity, using oral history as a counterpoint to these cultural constructions. The thesis is broadly divided into two parts. The first, `Representations', focuses on the representational or textual expressions of Australian Jewish femininity in the public sphere. Chapter One is a theoretical deconstruction of the cultural categories of Australian Jewish femininity. Chapter Two examines the history of the Australian Jewish community and the relative dearth of representations of Jewish femininity. Chapter Three contains a cultural analysis of American Jewish history and the social milieu from which the contemporary dominant global images of Jewish women emerge. Chapter Four examines the dominant representations of Jewish femininity on Australian television and explores the absence of local representations. This leads to Part Two, `Experiences', in which the focus shifts to the subjective impact of the discourses outlined in the first part of the thesis. Chapter Five links the representational analyses of the first half of the thesis to the oral history component of the remaining chapters. The remaining chapters are rooted in an oral history project conducted between 2000 and 2004. Chapter Six examines the role of the dominant stereotypes of Jewish women on three generations of Jewish women in Melbourne. Chapter Seven focuses on the role of Jewish men in the discourse of Jewish femininities. Chapter Eight compares the ways in which Jewish women in other diaspora communities (New York and London) absorb the dominant images in relation to Jewish women in Melbourne. The history of the development of these stereotypes and the different ways that these images have been negotiated by Jewish women themselves reveals much about the relationship between cultural paradigms and subjective identity. This thesis aims to deconstruct dominant mythologies of Jewish femininities through the examination of the intersection between textual representations and oral narratives.