Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stereotypes (WOF)

Chua's introduction to this section on Russian Jews plays to a fair number of stereotypes about Jews. Undoubtedly, Chua would defend this as not projecting false qualities onto her subjects, but as honest description of what they're like. The first problem with this is the question of why some of these descriptions are precisely necessary. She decides to include seemingly unconnected details that (apparently) point out the pronounced Jewishness:
The seventh oligarch - the only "full-blooded ethnic Russian" among them - is Vladmir Potanin. ("While the other oligarchs were still decorating their offices with leopard skins and mirrors, Putanin was buying graciously battered English antiques," writes Freeland.) The six Jewish businessmen most frequently called oligarchs are: Roman Abramovich, Pyotr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Friedman, Vladimir Gusinsky, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Chua, 78).
Why is that middle sentence necessary? Does their choice in furniture somehow reflect on their Jewishness, validating her claims even?

She then proceeds to even describe her Jewish husband in equally over-used terms, writing, "Not all Jews, of course, react like Jerry. When I first mentioned to my husband, who is Jewish, that six out of seven of Russia's wealthiest tycoons are Jewish, he raised an eyebrow. 'Just six?' he asked calmly. 'So who's the seventh guy?'" (Chua, 78). While she's clearly giving detail and diversity in her description of the Jewish community, she automatically treats them as Jews, before mere humans. She describes even her husband in this terms, saying that he's a Jewish counterexample to another Jewish man, before saying he's just a counterexample to the man. She marks his Jewish identity before his humanity in some ways, permitting herself to say these things in such stereotyping ways, even though she loves this man.

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