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< All Fellows and Scholars

Dr. Frances Tanzer

Frances Tanzer
Sosland Fellow

“Klezmer Dynasty: An Intimate History of Modern Jewish Culture, 1880-2019”

Professional Background

Dr. Frances Tanzer is the Rose Professor of Jewish Culture and Holocaust Studies at Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She received her PhD in European History from Brown University in 2018. In her research, she is interested in writing histories of modern Europe that focus on the paradoxical but crucial roles of refugees and minorities in shaping the continent's identities and cultures. More broadly, her research examines the aftermath of the Holocaust in Central Europe; refugees and migration; Holocaust memory; and the history of antisemitism and Islamophobia. A sustained interest in visual culture and performance unites her explorations of these themes. She has received fellowships from the Center for Jewish History, the German Historical Institute, the Getty Institute, the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies, and the Central European History Society, among others. 

Currently, Dr. Tanzer is working on a book entitled, Vanishing Vienna: Jewish Absence in Postwar Central Europe, which analyzes the fraught attempts to restore the cultural dynamism of pre-Nazi Vienna as Austrians and Jews reimagined themselves and Central European culture after the Holocaust. This book focuses on how Jews and non-Jews experienced, confronted, and represented Jewish absence as they pursued projects of cultural reconstruction from the Anschluss in 1938 to the present-day. Articles related to this project can be found in The Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook and Contemporary European History (forthcoming).

Fellowship Research

Dr. Tanzer was awarded a 2020-2021 Sosland Fellowship to begin research for second book project, Klezmer Dynasty: An Intimate History of Modern Jewish Culture, 1880-2019. This project proposes a transnational cultural history of the Holocaust and modern Jewish experience by focusing on Tanzer’s own family, the Brandwein klezmer musicians of Habsburg Galicia. They innovated klezmer music and Jewish culture from around 1880 to 2019 as they experienced the changes wrought by modernity, migration, the Holocaust, and its aftermath. This project connects the large-scale transformations that defined modern Jewish history to personal stories of reinvention by using family documents, ephemera from performances, and materials from the USHMM archives. Klezmer Dynasty analyzes a fundamental reevaluation of the place of Jews in European cultures after the Holocaust: namely how the status of klezmer music moved from a “low” and minor genre performed in nightclubs and at weddings before World War I to become representative of a European and Jewish musical aesthetic after the Holocaust. How did this transition take place and what are its consequences for Jews and other minorities in Europe?   

Residency Period: January 1 through May 31, 2021