Blog der Doktorandinnen und
Doktoranden am Dubnow-Institut



Mimeo, short for a text reproduced with a mimeograph and the name of this blog, refers to an outdated process of mechanical manuscript reproduction. Such manuscripts were understood as works in progress serving a communicative process, a process that we aim to emulate through the medium of this blog. Relieved of analog restrictions, the blog medium allows for a significantly larger audience to be reached and engaged in the long term. The emphasis is therefore placed on discussions of snapshots from individual research projects and, ultimately, on the further development of ideas. These short texts present historical moments that serve as miniatures to refer to more encompassing historical contexts.

Beyond its materiality, the technical apparatus behind the blog’s name is itself subject to a convoluted historical development. In 1887, Albert Blake Dick licensed an invention by Thomas Edison, who eleven years previously had still referred to it as the »electric pen,« under the name »mimeograph.« This original device still required each sheet to be reproduced individually, but the machine would soon be decisively thoroughly redesigned by David Gestetner, who hailed from a Hungarian Jewish family. In place of a flatbed, Gestetner’s device used a rotating cylinder. By 1890, he was already able to produce 1,200 copies per hour with this machine. In collaboration with Raymond Loewy, probably one of the most renowned North American product designers of the twentieth century, who also stemmed from a Jewish family, Gestetner’s company placed a modern mimeograph on the market that is considered today as the precursor of the mass-producing photocopier.

Gestetner Duplicator, © Courtesy of the Estate of Raymond Loewy.
The duplicator designed in 1929 by Raymond Loewy for the Gestetner Company, © Courtesy of the Estate of Raymond Loewy.

As a materialized moment – in texts, objects, places, or images, preserved as a visual or acoustic document – such historical episodes embody history. This blog is dedicated to identifying, describing, and interpreting continuities and ruptures as manifested in such moments. The contributions in Mimeo engage with the period from the mid-eighteenth century through to the present. The era dawning around 1750 was characterized by profound changes that shaped states, societies, and ways of thinking generally as well as Jewish experiences specifically. These changes, which are typically subsumed under the term modernity, consisted especially of phenomena relating to secularization and the disintegration of boundaries, belongings, and self-conceptions hitherto regarded as static. This confronted people with new challenges, for example the question of how to position oneself in a world in which the notion of a sacred order was increasingly losing significance. These developments, which varied depending on spatial and temporal location, produced a radical change in the relationship between experience and expectation, both for individuals and for political bodies and historical thinking generally. Against this background, the blog aims not only to capture the past for conservational reasons, but also to investigate its significance for the present. The blog is linked to a hope that the ability of forming historical judgments can be honed in incomplete and fragmentary contexts, while at the same time inducing further conceptual development.

Through their small format and anticipatory extraction from individual projects, the contributions published here aim to illuminate the multifaceted history of Jewries through modernity. A central point of departure here is the long-term diasporic conditions of the Jews in their various surrounding societies and cultures. Via their history, the social, political, cultural, and religious facets and developments of Jewish lifeworlds can be grasped. At the same time, a focus on the close entanglements between Jews and their respective environments allows for the horizon to be expanded to encompass those broader historical contexts of meaning in which Jewish history often acted as a seismograph of general historical developments. The intention is not to demonstrate this approach at length in the blog contributions, but rather to reflect a research perspective unfolding in the overall picture of snapshots from the marginalia.

Click here to read the original German version.

Cover Picture: Anne Brannys, Verweise als Wege [References as Paths] (2017) © Anne Brannys, Sammlung Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek/Klassik Siftung Weimar.

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