Samuel D. Kassow will be coming to speak to the Seminar in Cultural History Wednesday, March 17, 2010, on “Writing the History of Polish Jews: the Case of Emanuel Ringelblum.”

Dr. Kassow is the Charles Northam Professor of History at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, where he has taught in the History Department since 1972. He received his B.A. (cum laude) from Trinity College, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is also the Adjunct Professor of Jewish History at the University of Connecticut and has taught as a Visiting Professor at Princeton University, Wesleyan University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Moscow Humanities University in Russia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Professor Kassow has published four books: Who will Write our History: Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Indiana University Press, 2007); The Distinctive Life of East European Jewry (YIVO, 2004); Between Tsar and People: the Search for a Public Identity in Tsarist Russia, edited with Edith Clowes and James West (Princeton University Press, 1991); and Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia: 1884-1917 (University of California Press, 1989). He is currently working on, Two Jewish Cities: Vilna and Warsaw, to be published with Indiana University Press.

Dr. Kassow will be talking about his most recently published book project on Emanuel Ringelblum. In interwar Poland Jewish historians such as Emanuel Ringelblum saw themselves as both scholars and fighters. On the one hand these historians - barred from academic careers in Polish universities - organized a “counterprofession” that imposed high scholarly standards and rigorous peer review. On the other hand they also saw their scholarship as a weapon against anti-Semitic slanders and as a catalyst to fashion a new secular Jewish identity. One way of overcoming the natural tension between scholarship and cultural politics was to introduce new agendas that were professionally challenging but that also held out the promise of transforming popular perceptions of Jewish identity. The new agendas included material culture, social history and the conscious decision to shift focus from traditional elites to previously slighted groups such as women and the Jewish poor. This talk will examine how one historian tried to balance sometimes clashing priorities, both in interwar Poland and in the Oyneg Shabes archive in the Warsaw ghetto.

Please join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a brief reception before the talk.