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Peretz Hirschbein Project

The World Is Big and Full of Illusions: Peretz Hirschbein, Global Jewish Culture and the Struggle for Universalism

This research sets out to explore the persona of Peretz Hirschbein (Poland, 1880-USA, 1948), his memoirs, press articles, Yiddish travel and belles-lettres writing, and his global involvement on behalf of the Yiddish culture. I locate my project at the intersection of cultural history, literary studies, and Jewish studies. The main problem that my new research will explain is the development of migrant Yiddish culturism following the era of great migrations. The project explores the biography and oeuvre of Peretz Hirshbein to depict the geographic expansion of Yiddish culture which his trajectory and activism embodied. My research suggests Yiddish literati travelers as public intellectuals and agents of extending Yiddish culture and progressive social and cultural agenda in multiple centers of Ashkenazi Jewish life. The project contributes to understanding the migration-influenced geographies of the Yiddish culture and the role of the cultural leaders in its transformation. I inquire as well about Eastern European Jewish encounters with non-European people and places and explore Hirschbein writing as an ambivalent cultural space where anticolonial critic mixes with the Orientalism. The project is based on research in vast personal archive of Peretz Hirschbein including: memoirs, speeches, social and cultural criticism, his correspondence with Yiddishist activist around the world, his travel writing (and its reception in places he visited) and his dramatic and prose works.