The Pragmatism of Proto-Zionism: Tracing Jewish Nation-building through a Cultural Sociological Framework

Zionist emergence and its early developments have often been told either as a person/organisation-centred narrative or a Herderian cultural-geographically distinct account (see Dubnov 2011). Through the empirical case study of Danish Zionist emergence, I will show Zionism as an entangled and networked phenomenon that forced the involved parts to rethink Jewish belonging as either here or there. In the lecture, I unfold how a proto-Zionist tour from London to Palestine and back in 1897 inspired the participants, among which was the Danish-Jewish physician, Louis Frænkel, to discover and make sense of what Zionism meant to them. Based on a cultural sociological framework, I show how this proto-Zionist trip became a catalyst for re-coding Jewish values for a group of European Jews. They subsequently returned to their different nation-states and local Jewish communities with a repertoire of new ways of enacting Jewish collectivity that, among other things, reshuffled the earlier marginalisation of small Jewish communities such as the Danish.

Maja Gildin Zuckerman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School. She was the Jim Joseph Postdoctoral Fellow at Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University. Her research centers around questions related to modern and contemporary Jewish citizenship, the civil sphere, and national in/exclusion relations. She has co-edited the book New Perspectives on Jewish Cultural History: Boundaries, Experiences, and Sense-Making (New York, Routledge, 2019). She holds a PhD from University of Southern Denmark in Middle Eastern Studies (2016), a MA in Sociology and Anthropology from Tel Aviv University (2012), and a BA in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from Copenhagen and Haifa University.