Structure of feeling and radical identity among working-class Jewish youth during the 1905 revolution



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This dissertation "'Structure of Feeling" and Radical Identity among Working-Class Jewish Youth during the 1905 Revolution" examines the emotional aspects of revolutionary experience during a critical turning point in both Russian and Jewish history. Most studies of radicalization construe the process as an intellectual or analytical one. I argue that radicalization involved an emotional transformation, which enabled many young revolutionaries to develop a new "structure of feeling', defined by Raymond Williams as an intangible awareness that allows us to recognize someone belonging to our cultural group, as opposed to a well-versed stranger. The key elements of this new structure of feeling were an activist attitude towards reality and a prioritization of feelings demanding action over others. Uncovering the links between feeling, idea, and activism holds a special significance in the context of modern Jewish history. When pogroms swept through Jewish communities during 1905-6, young Jews who had fled years earlier, often after bitter conflicts with their families and a difficult rejection of traditions, returned to protect their communities. Never expecting to return or be accepted back, they arrived with new identities forged in radical study circles and revolutionary experience as activist, self-assertive Jews. The self-assertion that led them away earlier proved them more effective leaders than traditional Jewish communal authorities. Their intellectual and emotional experiences in self-education, secularization, and political activism meant creating a new social status within the Jewish community legitimating a new Jewish identity as working-class Jewish revolutionary.