Scott Spector is a Rudolf Mrazek Collegiate Professor of History and German Studies at the University of Michigan. Currently he is a Visiting Fellow of IWM’s program Ukraine in European Dialogue.
Austrian Jews under the Habsburg crown came to be perceived and to perceive themselves as sharply divided by an imaginary boundary between East and West. The presumption of a more traditional and insular Jewish communal life in Galicia, in particular, in contrast to the assimilated Judaism of cities like Prague and Vienna, resulted at times in relationships characterized by paternalism and suspicion. But are there ways in which this peculiar structure was the foundation of forms of intellectual creativity? Taking off from comparisons of the Habsburg Empire to colonial empires, I am interested in bringing the Algerian Jewish theorist Alfred Memmi’s insights in The Colonizer and the Colonized to bear on Jewish writers who passed between Austria’s Eastern and Western regions. Original forms of Zionism emerged from such subjects, who also contributed to novel forms of literature, journalism, and other media. The dialectical tensions in the particular cultural products discussed together in this colloquium pertain to a specifically Habsburg Jewish condition of identifying both as subject and object of the orientalist gaze.