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Confronting Difference in Diaspora: Max Weber's Woodcuts in the Context of Yiddish Modernism


In the winter of 1919-1920, the artist Max Weber (1881-1961) created twenty-four or twenty-five small woodcut prints out of a box he had received containing a gift of comb honey. The small images that resulted appropriated visual forms from Western and Central African art and incorporated them into the representation of Jewishness. This thesis argues that the woodcuts and Weber’s dissemination of them in the context of Yiddish modernism embody an aesthetic of diasporic primitivism that explores Jewishness as one form of difference among others and thereby distinguishes itself from primitivist practices that sought to manage difference. Weber’s woodcuts moreover actively participated in a matrix of Yiddish modernism advocated by the movement known as Di Yunge and concerned with literary and aesthetic negotiations of how Jewishness relates to other cultures.

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