This article takes the postwar period in the US (from the end of World War II to the mid-1960s) as represented by a handful of canonical films-both of the era and since-as an opportunity to argue for a critical Jewish Studies-based analysis of periodization. It illustrates the need in Jewish Studies to mount a sustained critique of the concept of identity that anchors its professional practices. Questions about identity are too often asked as questions about culture as the naturalized predicate of a population, and this tendency underlies and supports a dominant historicist approach in Jewish American Studies that suppresses critical alternatives. Through a series of close readings-of The Jazz Singer (1927), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), The Pawnbroker (1964), Liberty Heights (1999), and Inglorious Basterds (2009)-this paper instead proposes that we deploy a critical history of the concept of Jewish American identity-rather than a history of an empirical subject we take for granted as American Jewry-to destabilize the logic of periodization underlying the historicist selfevidence of Jewish identity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Religious studies