WISO-Abendkolloquium: Walter L. Koppmann, "The Jewish Working-Class of Buenos Aires, 1905–1930. Worlds of Labor, Left Political Cultures, and Urban Experience"


Zeit: Dienstag, 7. Dezember 2021, 18.00–19.30 Uhr

Ort: online via Zoom: univienna.zoom.us/j/93646285636

Moderation: Lisa Hoppel

This lecture will examine the history of the Jewish working-class immigration that arrived in Buenos Aires between 1905 and 1930. Jewish immigration gained visibility between 1905 and 1906, when more than 20,000 people exiled in Buenos Aires, escaping from political reaction, anti-Semitic xenophobia, and Tsarist’s pogroms. Beyond Europe, the two main destinations were New York and Buenos Aires. Whereas many relevant studies explored the American Yiddish labor movement, the history of early Yiddish labor migration in Argentina still lacks scholar research.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish workers shaped a relevant ethnic community in Buenos Aires. By 1914, they were the third largest group of immigrants, behind Italians and Spaniards. Yiddishkait, as a common cultural and generational background, brought together multiple common senses, social practices, and historical memories from different parts of the world. 

The “Russians”, as Jewish migrants were called in Argentina, no matter their country origin, accounted for less than 5 per cent of the population of Buenos Aires - 1 million in 1909 - but represented a significant political actor. Identified in the public opinion as a dangerous and subversive social group, Jewish migrants were usually associated with terrorism, violence, and women trafficking. Although several studies have addressed the latter, Yiddish world of labor tended to be marginalized from scholar interests. The main question of the research could be summarized as follows: what was ‘unique’ or peculiar about Jewish working-class’ experience in Buenos Aires?

This postdoctoral research is currently under way in Argentina, at the University of Buenos Aires and the CONICET, and in the Netherlands, at the International Institute of Social History and the Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA – Universiteit van Amsterdam).