Photographing the Jewish Nation
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM (CDT)
This lecture will take place at The Museum of Russian Art, which is currently featuring the exhibition
“Jewish Life in the Russian Empire: Photographs from the Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg,
Russia" through October 20, 2013. The Musem will open at 7:00 pm for those who are interested in viewing the exhibit. The lecture will take place at 7:30.
Between 1912 and 1914, S. An-sky, one of the most important figures in Yiddish literature, culture,
and ethnography, and his team conducted three successful ethnographic expeditions in the Pale of
Settlement of the Russian Empire. Their goal was to understand the ways of life of ordinary people.
The ethnographers collected Jewish religious manuscripts and cultural artifacts. They recorded tales,
songs, and other folklore and interviewed Jewish children as well as adults. They snapped hundreds
(perhaps even thousands) of photographs of Jewish daily life and material culture. The end result was an
unprecedented collection of materials about Jewish life, a great portion of which survived the calamities
of the twentieth century.
Eugene M. Avrutin is Associate Professor of Modern European Jewish History and Tobor Family Scholar in the Program of Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois. He is the author of Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia. Together with Harriet Murav and Petersburg Judaica he edited Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky’s Ethnographic Expeditions, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the visual arts category. Avrutin is currently working on a micro-history of a sensational ritual murder trial, one of the longest in the modern world, that took place in Velizh in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.
Co-sponsored by The Museum of Russian Art, the University of Minnesota Departments of History and Anthropology. This series is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Julia K. & Harold Segall.