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Melting Pots and Promised Lands: Early Zionism and the Idea of America

A lecture by Hilton Obenzinger, Stanford University

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Duration: 51:42

Melting Pots and Promised Lands: Early Zionism and the Idea of America provides a broad cultural and intellectual history of entwined ideological narratives, examining versions of the “idea of America” in tandem with American attitudes toward Zionism at the turn of the 20th century to 1948, discussing diverse ideological expressions and images of the United States as Promised Land and Melting Pot in relation to varied ideological constructions of Zionism. This talk discusses how narratives about the fate of the Jews and the modern “restoration” of the Holy Land have profoundly influenced the development of settler-colonial nationalism in the United States; and how American formulations of identity and national purpose have affected the ways Americans have advocated or opposed Zionism. In particular, the talk will focus on the development of the concepts of the “Melting Pot” (Israel Zangwill) and “cultural pluralism” (Horace Kallen, Louis Brandeis) in the early 20th century.

Hilton Obenzinger is the author of American Palestine: Melville, Twain, and the Holy Land Mania, as well as articles in scholarly journals on American Holy Land travel, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and American cultural interactions with the Middle East. He is in the midst of writing Melting Pots and Promised Lands: Early Zionism and the Idea of America, and he has published several journal articles in the course of writing this book, including “Palestine Solidarity, Political Discourse, and the Peace Movement, 1982-1988,” “In the Shadow of ‘God's Sun-Dial’: The Construction of American Christian Zionism and the Blackstone Memorial,” “Naturalizing Cultural Pluralism, Americanizing Zionism: The Settler Colonial Basis to Early- Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought,” and “Melting-Pots and Promised Lands: Zionism, the Idea of America, and Israel Zangwill.” He has also published books of poetry, fiction and oral history, most recently an autobiographical novel Busy Dying. His collection of poems and sketches, This Passover Or The Next I Will Never Be In Jerusalem, received the American Book Award. He teaches American studies and writing at Stanford University.

Center for Near Eastern Studies