Consuming Temples on Both Sides of the Atlantic: German-speaking Jews from the Department Store to the Mall

April 24 | 5-6:30 p.m.
Lecture at GHI West (201 Moses Hall)
Speaker: Paul Lerner (USC)

This talk focuses on two contexts: the formation of consumer culture in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Germany and the activities of German-speaking émigrés in American consumer culture after World War II. It will show how department stores and other commercial venues were coded and represented as "Jewish" in the pre-war German context, while in postwar America, the work of some of these same figures was seen as "European" and sophisticated. Ultimately, in this talk I try to challenge simple binaries between European and American consumer culture, revealing previously unappreciated mutual influences and cross-fertilization across the twentieth century, long-term processes in which émigrés and refugees from fascism played a unique role.

Paul Lerner is Professor of History at the University of Southern California where he directs the Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies. He has written two books: Hysterical Men: War, Psychiatry and the Politics of Trauma in Germany, 1890-1930 (Cornell) and The Consuming Temple: Jews, Department Stores, and the Consumer Revolution in Germany, 1880-1940 (Cornell).

This lecture concludes the 2017-18 joint lecture series of GHI West and the Center for German and European Studies at UC Berkeley.