Det föreställda ghettot. Ultraortodox gränsdragning och identitetskonstruktion i The Jewish Observer 1983-2002

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The dissertation focuses on the Haredi (ultra-orthodox Jewish) journal The Jewish Observer, published since 1963 by Agudath Israel of America, suggesting that the publisher uses the journal as an instrument to help the readers to maintain a distinct Haredi identity in urban, non-Haredi environments and not only in their own, isolated milieu. The articles of the journal are understood as resources, aiming to help the readers to consider themselves to be members of an »imagined ghetto».

The first main part of the thesis presents the historical and religious context of the movement behind The Jewish Observer, the second part consists of an analysis of a selection of its articles sorted into three categories.

The first group of articles paints a picture of »Europe in its glory», and are part of the community’s fabricated heritage. The articles tell the life stories of the leaders of the movement, recreate a lost world of flourishing yeshivas and pious Jews, and present the »true» version of contested memories and persona-lities. This fabricated heritage, it is argued, is an integral part of the community’s cultural identity, giving their members a sense of a unique past and of »being one of us» in contrast to an Other.

The second group consists of articles about the Holocaust. These articles focus on »true heroism» under difficult circumstances, depicting the Nazi war against the Jews as a war against Judaism as a religion. The »true heroes» are the people who continued to act and live as religious Jews, and – in this sense – can function as role models for today’s Haredi Jews, who live under »difficult» circumstances as well.

The third – and largest – group of articles are related to America. This »America» is the place where the encounter is staged between the »old» and the »new» world, and it provides »the imagined ghetto» with several resources to help it maintain its boundaries vis-à-vis the Other. These boundaries, it is argued, are con-struc-ted in order to help the readers to feel that »we» are not »them» and that have more in common than »we» differ – and in that sense create a symbolic ghetto which is no longer restricted to any geographic boundaries. »The imagined ghetto» is a mental feeling of otherness, created and maintained by resources from the surrounding society – which means that the existence of »the imagined ghetto» is dependent on its real and imaginary enemies. The purpose of the majority of the articles in The Jewish Observer are therefore to construct and maintain these symbolic enemies.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • History of Religions and Religious Behavioural Science
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Nov 7
ISBN (Print)91-88552-46-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2003-11-07
Time: 10:15
Place: Samarkand, Akademiska Föreningen, Sandgatan 2

External reviewer(s)

Name: Steensgaard Paludan, Peter
Title: Lektor
Affiliation: Aarhus university


The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History of Religions

Free keywords

  • Non-Christian religions
  • resource mobilization
  • boundary maintenance
  • cultural identity
  • Jewish traditionalism
  • haredim
  • ultra-Orthodox Jewry
  • Jews in USA
  • Agudath Israel of America
  • Världsreligioner (ej kristendom)

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