Open lecture by Shelley Salamensky – University of Copenhagen

English > Events > 2015 > Open lecture by Shelle...

Open lecture by Shelley Salamensky


In this presentation, Shelley I. Salamensky discusses what she terms “Jewface” minstrelsy performance and “Jewfaçade” display in three contemporary contexts with highly divergent historical backgrounds: East-Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Jewish Autonomous Republic, a colony established by Stalin in far eastern Russia near China and still extant today. Jewface encompasses music, dance, theater, and extra-theatrical modes of performance, in which non-Jews dress up and act like “Jews,” as historically imagined; Jewfaçade encompasses museum-type installations, as well as architectural and decorative constructions, depicting imagined “Jewish” life. These “Diaspora Disneys” vary from the education- and tolerance-oriented to the crassly exploitative and commercial to the bizarrely confused. None have much to do with actual Jews, but all convey a tremendous amount regarding dominant “host” cultures’ anxieties over not only their roles in past persecution and genocide but also their own present cultures, politics, and positions in the wider world today. Further, they present a wide array of models of memoriological projection and desire, in what Salamensky explicates as spectra of “plethoric” to “voidic” memoriological scenarios and “negotiatory” to “constitutory” memoriological strategies.


Shelley I. Salamensky’s past books include Talk Talk Talk: The Cultural Life of Everyday Conversation (edited collection, Routledge) and The Modern Art of Influence and the Spectacle of Oscar Wilde (Palgrave Macmillan). This presentation is drawn from her current book project, Diaspora Disneys: Spectacular Homes and Homelands in the Global Age. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, Williams College, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was tenured Associate Professor of Performance Studies, as well as Affiliated Faculty in European and Eurasian Studies and Jewish Studies. She is currently Director of the Humanities PhD Program, Professor of Global Humanities, and former Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Louisville. Her writings have appeared in a wide variety of academic and popular publications, including The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, she serves as Contributing Editor at The Los Angeles Review of Books.