Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1983.
My scholarship and teaching have focused on twentieth American cultural and social history. I have been particularly interested in the foundations and transformations of group identities. How do groups define themselves and how are they defined by others? How and why do those understandings and representations change over time and what have been the social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional sources of those transformations?
I began my career as a social historian concerned primarily with the effects of large scale social and economic processes--migration, industrial wage work, labor organizing--on group identity. That was the topic of my book on Jewish immigrant women, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation. My approach has increasingly shifted to focus on the cultural and intellectual materials through which social groups have attempted to define and represent themselves within the broader public culture. This was the subject of my book Female Spectacle: the Theatrical Roots of Modern Feminism. My recent work, a cultural and intellectual history of the paradoxes of public discourse on Jewish identity, explores some fundamental Jewish debates, anxieties, and taboos that are at once historical and contemporary, about who Jews are and what makes them different from, similar to, or the same as other Americans. Boundaries of Jewish Identity, includes essays by me and other historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and literary critics who offer comparative perspectives on the much-debated question of who and what is "Jewish" in the U.S., Israel, and Europe.
My current research explores how American journalists and photographers sought to convey to American audiences the urgency of the fascist threat and the devastating effects of the war in Europe in the l930s and l940s. I examine their work in relationship to the discursive strategies of Depression era social documentary and in the context of anti-Fascist culture of the period. The women and men who documented the war were not neutral observers; rather they served as morally engaged witnesses and actors in an unfolding historical tragedy.
Boundaries of Jewish Identity. University of Washington Press, forthcoming 2010 (co-edited with Naomi Sokoloff)
Female Spectacle: The Theatrical Roots of Modern Feminism. Harvard University Press, 2000.
Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1990. (Winner of the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize given by the American Historical Association for the best book in Women's History/Feminist Theory,1991).
“`Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish’: Visual Stereotypes and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity,” in Glenn and Sokoloff, eds. Boundaries of Jewish Identity
“Who and What is Jewish? Controversies and Perspectives on the Boundaries of Jewish Identity,” (with Naomi Sokoloff) in Glenn and Sokoloff, eds. Boundaries of Jewish Identity
“Reflections on `The Body’ in Labor History,” Labor, 4 (2), 2007
“The Vogue of Jewish Self-Hatred in Post WWII America.” in Jewish Social Studies, 12, Spring/Summer 2006
"In the Blood?: Consent, Descent, and the Ironies of Jewish Identity." in Jewish Social Studies, 8 (Winter/Spring 2002)
"'Give an Imitation of Me' Vaudeville Mimics and the Play of the Self." American Quarterly 50 (March 1998). Winner of the 1999 Constance Rourke Prize given by the American Studies Association.