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Publisher Description

David Hollinger's article challenges some well-worn conceptual frameworks about the writing of American Jewish history, just as his previous works--including his landmark books of the middle of the 1990s, Post-Ethnic America (1995) and Science, Jews and Secular Culture (1996)--have done for twentieth century American cultural history. In these two books, Hollinger took to task some fundamental assumptions about American identity, modernity, and the engines of changes that historians have comfortably subscribed to. He wanted his readers to think differently about the origins and nature of modern America. Mid-twentieth century America, he demonstrated ably in Science, Jews, and Secular Culture, became secular and liberal due in no small part to the efforts of Jewish intellectuals, scientists, and social scientists. Hollinger showed that these liberals, whom later generations dismissed as not particularly responsive to ethnic and racial differences, did battle with the deeply entrenched Christian gatekeepers who believed that modernism, secularism, and cosmopolitanism, particularly when articulated by Jews, threatened American values. (1) In Postethnic America, Hollinger called for a broad intellectual reconceptualization of group identities in the United States, one that would transcend the regnant paradigm of multiculturalism, which tended, Hollinger argued, to reduce Americans to their placement in some "group" or another. He asserted that individuals were just that--individuals--and not cogs in a set of fixed ethnic categories. (2) Hollinger, with his graceful writing, deep research, and keen insights, boldly tackled some of the "sacred cows" that dominated the historical discourse of the last decade of the twentieth century. These two books, with their broad implications for the history of Jews in America, spoke to the interests of historians who write on American Jews perhaps more than any other works written by a nonspecialist in our field during those years.

March 1
American Jewish Historical Society
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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