Between nationalism and assimilation: Jewish antifascism in Australia in the late 1940s and Early 1950s
AuthorKaiser, Max Elliot
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2018 Dr. Max Elliot Kaiser
This thesis argues that Jewish antifascism was a major political and cultural force in Australian Jewish communities in the 1940s and early 1950s. It charts the emergence of a non-nationalist and anti-assimilationist Australian Jewish antifascist political subjectivity, and examines its ideological basis, cultural and political practice, and the circumstances of the rapid demise of its hegemony. This thesis focuses on transnational dimensions of the political imagination and, while drawing on relevant historiography, also develops a partisan framework. It analyses the complex historical positioning of Australian Jews within Australian white supremacy and settler colonialism, and tracks the emergence of an Australian Jewish antifascist political subjectivity from a complex political ethic of Holocaust memorialisation. It outlines how this ethic was geared towards a horizon of redemption and radical social change, and how this orientation led to possibilities for political solidarity with other oppressed peoples. Drawing on a range of archival sources, such as newspaper articles, magazines, pamphlets and creative works, this thesis paints an intellectual and cultural portrait of the vibrant Australian world of Jewish antifascism, and consequently uncovers a previously obscured history of radical Jewish thought in Australia. This thought is contextualised in terms of its relationship to international political forces, including a transnational Jewish antifascist movement, Zionism, Communism, global decolonisation and the Cold War. In narrating this account, this thesis overturns previous scholarly assumptions about Australian Jewish history and the history of Holocaust memory, and in so doing contributes to new understandings of Australian migrant history and the place of migrants within Australian settler colonialism.
KeywordsJewish antifascism, Australian Jewish history, settler colonialism, Holocaust memory, Zionism, migration history, racism, antisemitism, Cold War, Communist Party of Australia, cultural nationalism
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