Eric Silverman’s long-awaited Cultural History of Jewish Dress was released last month in Bloomsbury’s prestigious fashion history series (formerly Berg). It brings up to date a subject which has long been in want of revision: Jewish clothing was last surveyed in 1967 – almost fifty years ago – by Alfred Rubens in A History of Jewish Costume. The scope of the book is broad, spanning three thousand years in regions and cultures as distant from one another as the Middle East, Russia, North Africa, Europe, and the USA.
Drawing on the Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud, on a selection of secondary sources and newspaper articles in English, Silverman, a US-American anthropologist, chose an analytical rather than empirical approach. Instead of categorizing garments, he chronicles controversies fought over the ages about what Jews should and should not wear.
The idea that revolution – real revolution – lies in an accumulation of minor changes in daily life, as opposed to violent uprisings in the streets, is finding increasing popularity, in particular among the media literate who proliferate trends with ever-increasing technical expertise. This idea is Adam Thirlwell’s point of departure in his most recent publication, Kapow!, a novel about the Arab Spring, set in Tahrir Square in 2011.
Accordingly, riots play only a minor role in the novel. For Thirlwell, the true needle bursting fundamentalist Islamic bubbles one after another, is pop culture. “Kapow!” spells out the cartoon sound for violence.
Uprisings are both the backdrop and a metaphor for the story, which is a love triangle. Nigora, the heroine, is married to Rustam, a media-grouch, who stands for everything old, such as unfashionable gym socks, cassettes, and even burkas. Nigora finds herself increasingly attracted to Ahmad, a tech-savvy hipster in Brooklyn glasses, who makes movies on his digital camera. Ahmad believes that private life – meaning drugs and food, books and movies, fashion and sex – is “larger than the revolution.” It is. His activities have expanded his horizon beyond the borders of Egypt and they connect him in style and thinking with youth cultures around the world. Continue reading →
Year after year, Jews in Germany ask themselves the same question: where are they going to get their Hanukkah paraphernalia? Santa Clauses smile at us from every shop window, the shelves are overflowing with a huge variety of delicacies wrapped up in glitzy packaging, and of course there are Advent calendars everywhere. Even the parcels we receive long before the day itself are decorated for Christmas – but amidst this splendor, Hanukkah products are nowhere to be found. The ‘usual suspects,’ the stores with Jewish literature or kosher groceries, always have paper plates and decorations with the same designs as five years ago. I can almost hear the children say, “oh no, not the same stuff again!” So, what to do? Continue reading →