Evidence of Jewish identity in the photographic works of Claude Cahun
Woodlee, Angela Christine
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Many scholars have explicated a theory of identity politics at work in the photographs and writings of Claude Cahun (1894-1954), but most of these have focused on a lesbian identity and a visual vocabulary of sexuality. Although Cahun herself made mention of her Jewish identity, previous scholarship scarcely acknowledges this fact, much less the complex social and political associations conjured by such references. This gap in the literature is particularly glaring when one considers the historic period in which she lived. This thesis puts Cahun's photographic and literary allusions to Jewishness in the context of attitudes toward French Jews in the period leading up to World War II. By examining an under-explored component of her photographic interrogation of identity, this thesis illuminates Cahun's ambivalence toward her Jewish identity specifically and, thereby, her questioning of the notion of categories of identity as a whole.