Jews in the imaginary of ethnic differentiations in
Project manager: Mitja Žagar, Ph. D.
Principal researcher: Hannah Starman, Ph. D.
Funding: Ministry of education, science and sports of the Republic of Slovenia
Project duration: 1. July 2004 – 30. June 2006
In the times of modernity, Jews on the Slovenian territory were, as a population entity, marked by their physical absence: the »cryptic« presence of the Jews among Slovenians has pre-modern roots based in the specific history of Jewry on this territory.
Nowadays, the Jews in Slovenia are organised into one of the smallest Jewish Communities in Europe. This population fact, however, has little to do with the social representation of Jews in Slovenia. It is our starting hypothesis that the situation may be just the reverse: the positive or negative sensitivity towards Jews, Jewishness, Judaism, the events in Israel etc. are a matter of every-day formation of ethnic ideation and differentiation at all levels of public in a manner akin to what Paul Lendvai (1971) termed »anti-Semitism/(philo-Semitism) without Jews«.
The project will draw its primary empirical evidence in support to these two hypotheses from a fieldwork research based on qualitative methodology, in three subsequent steps: a) by gathering testimonies of Jews who are nowadays citizens/residents of Slovenia and who have survived the Holocaust, and their offspring; b) by collecting testimonies of the »neighbours«, witnesses and bystanders who remember the persecution of Jews in their immediate vicinity, e.g. in their home towns, in the resistance movement, or concentration camp, etc.; c) by collecting testimonies of people whose personal and family genealogies include Jewish forbears but who relate very differently to this »ancestral complex«.
The research has two explicit goals: first, to document the memories of Holocaust surviving Jews and their offspring in Slovenia, to store their life histories and the circumferential evidence and memory about these histories; and second, the ways in which the attitude towards Jews and everything deemed Jewish functions as a component of ethnic declarations in the relations that are based in constructions of impassable, ethnic differentiations on the one hand, and the relations of passable, cultural difference on the other in contemporary Slovenia. Given this goal, the diagnosing of a specific aspect of ethnocentrisms in Slovenia, it is a matter of methodological necessity to determine the temporal/historical turning points that, according to hypotheses, deeply affected these ethnocentrisms. After the Holocaust that was initiated in Slovenia with the deportations in 1943 and 1994, another such turning point is the independence of Slovenia in 1991; the latter can be seen as »the latest« trigger point of radicalisation of ethnocentric ideation in Slovenia. Therefore, the final analyses of the materials, and the projections based in them, will take into account especially the period from 1991 to present.