Beth Holmgren Graduate Student Essay Prize

2011 Citation Recipient

Jolanta Mickute

TheĀ Beth Holmgren Graduate Student Essay Prize, established in 1990 and named in honor of Professor Holmgren in 2021, is awarded for an outstanding essay by a graduate student in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Winner: Jolanta Mickute, Indiana University
Title: “Making of the Zionist Woman: Zionist Discourse on the Jewish Woman’s Body and Sexuality”

This sophisticated and highly original article scrambles what we thought we knew about interwar politics and culture. Mickute accomplishes this not by debunking existing stories or interpretations, but by simply looking at familiar topics from a novel perspective. The ideological categories of left and right, the ethno-national labels of Polish and Jewish, and the political categories of state and society all appear in a new light when seen through the eyes of the women Mickute studies. They were emphatically Jewish, yet their worldviews only make sense when understood within a richly detailed context that they shared with non-Jewish Poles. Their Zionism pulled them towards nationalism (with the imposition of sexual discipline that this implied), yet their modernity and revolutionary politics pushed them towards personal and sexual emancipation. Mickute employs an impressive range of public and private sources to illustrate both the discursive construction of the “Zionist Woman” and the ways in which actual women constructed their own subjectivities within that identity. This essay is a chapter of a dissertation tentatively entitled “Modern, Jewish, and Female,” that promises to be an major scholarly accomplishment.