Thesis ID: CBB054216437

Hebrew Encyclopedias: Objectivity, Jewish History, and the National Territory (2015)


My dissertation explores the history of encyclopedic literature in Hebrew at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century. The formative years of the Zionist Movement were a period of extensive literary writing and cultural production, yet none were as grandiose in their scope as the Hebrew encyclopedias. The attempts to form vast bodies of knowledge in a national language were intended to support the idea of the Jews as a distinct nation with its own unique culture. My project examines the history of Hebrew encyclopedias from the publication of the first modern encyclopedia in Hebrew, HaEshkol in 1888, until the move of Jewish encyclopedic center to Palestine at the end of World War I. I investigate the reasons that led publishers to initiate projects of this magnitude, the ways in which editors and writers defined the encyclopedias’ readerships and the types of knowledge they attributed to the target readers. In order to delineate a long cultural history of Zionism, my project examines the circumstances and actors that formed the authority of Hebrew encyclopedias. By applying methodological tools from recent studies in the history of science, I investigate the social conditions that determined which ways of presenting knowledge would be considered objective. I follow the intellectual links between the different actors who were involved in producing encyclopedic knowledge and observe how commercial considerations formed and changed objectivity in Hebrew. The dissertation is composed of two chapters arranged in a chronological order and a third case-study chapter dedicated to geographical encyclopedias of Palestine. The first chapter discusses early attempts to publish Hebrew encyclopedias in Warsaw, and Odessa at the end of the nineteenth century. The second chapter observes the relations between these projects to Jewish encyclopedias in other languages and examines closely two projects: Otsar Yisrael and the attempts to publish Otsar HaYahadut. The last chapter discusses the epistemology of geographical encyclopedias and stresses two aspects: visual technologies of representation (e.g., illustrations, photos, and graphs) and the use of statistics and numbers.

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Authors & Contributors
Zalashik, Rakefet
Davidovitch, Nadav
Hirsch, Dafna
El-Haj, Nadia Abu
Sufian, Sandy
Turda, Marius
Science in Context
International Journal of Middle East Studies
Israel Studies
Social History of Medicine
Comparative Studies in Society and History
Medical History
Central European University Press
Text. Verlag.
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California Press
University of Chicago Press
University of Minnesota Press
Jewish civilization and culture
Science and politics
Public health
Einstein, Albert
Pasteur, Louis
Landau, Edmund
Eder, David
Du Bois, William Edward B.
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
Czech Republic
Central Europe
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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