A precarious life : East European female Jewish students in interwar Belgium
Title: A precarious life : East European female Jewish students in interwar Belgium
Author: FALEK, Pascale
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
More than one thousand East European Jewish women came to Belgium during the interwar years to pursue higher education. Who were these women? What political, economic and social developments caused these young women to leave their home countries at such a young age and embark on a foreign adventure? Furthermore, why did they end up at Belgian universities? And what kind of experiences did they have in Belgium? The aim of this study is to contribute to the question of transnational student migration by focusing on a case study that serves to combine social class, gender and foreignness. This work will attempt to demonstrate that these women encountered obstacles on several levels: as foreigners, as Jews and as women. Combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, this study mainly relies on methodological tools utilized in social history and migration history. Combining macro and micro level perspectives, the narrative follows the life trajectory of female students by examining the situation in their home country, their social backgrounds and their pursuit of education. Precariousness was the price these women had to endure to rise up the social ladder. East European Jewish women who migrated to study in Belgium took major risks: they left their homeland, and with it the secure, comfortable middle-class environment that most of them grew up in. They consciously made the choice to challenge their condition and they ventured that they would improve their lives and achieve their dreams by taking such a gamble. They were independent, determined and emancipated they were full of fighting spirit and had real ambitions to prosper. These women knew that the insecurity they opted for was necessary to advance further and to succeed in life.
Defence date: 29 October 2011; Examining Board: Prof. Philipp Ther (EUI) - Supervisor Prof. Giulia Calvi (EUI) Prof. Victor Karady (Central European University) Prof. Jean-Philippe Schreiber (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
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