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Sheyfali Saujani

Sheyfali Saujani

The Hilda Neatby Prize English Article


Sheyfali Saujani, “Empathy and Authority in Oral Testimony: Feminist Debates, Multicultural Mandates, and Reassessing the Interviewer and her ‘Disagreeable’ Subjects.”  Histoire social/Social History, vol. XLV, no. 90 (November 2012), 361-391.

Sheyfali Saujani’s article makes significant contributions to feminist historical theory and methodology, demonstrating that oral history interviews can contain conversational ruptures in which interviewees withhold empathy and assert authority. According to Saujani, some interviewees rejected being addressed as ethnic subjects, for in their views, “ethnic” labelling contained subtle insinuations of ignorance. Combining perceptive textual analysis with discussions of broader racial tensions during the 1970s, “Empathy and Authority” offers valuable new insights into oral history practice, as well as into feminist historiography more generally.

Honourable Mention
Andrea Eidinger, “Gefilte Fish and Roast Duck with Orange Slices: A Treasure for My Daughter and the Creation of a Jewish Cultural Orthodoxy in Postwar Montreal.”  In Franca Iacovetta, Marlene Epp, and Valerie Korinek, eds., Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History, 189-208.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.

Andrea Eidinger’s “Gelfite Fish and Roast Duck with Orange Slices” is an exemplary work in Canadian feminist historiography. Asking the question, “What is a Jew?”, and exploring the the seminal Canadian Jewish cookbook, A Treasure for My Daughter (1950), “Gelfite Fish” examines orthodox Jewish identity in postwar Canada. Created over a half century ago, A Treasure for My Daughter still holds a starring place in Jewish kitchens, and is often handed down from mother and daughter. Containing not only recipes for such Eastern European peasant and working class staples as gelfite fish but also such North American dishes as roast turkey with all the trimmings, A Treasure for My Daughter draw from a range of influences, even while it privileges Biblical history and modern Israeli culture. Especially noteworthy is the book’s assumption that Jewish mothers are responsible for safeguarding Jewish cultural identity. Filled with rich analysis, “Gelfite Fish and Roast Duck with Orange Slices” is a model for future research on gender, class, ethnicity, identity, and food.