Consuming Encounters: Jews, Department Stores, and Early Mass Consumption in Germany, 1880-1940


ACLS Fellowship Program




Department stores, which began appearing in German cities and towns in the 1880s, revolutionized daily life, leisure, and commerce. The great majority of these stores, perhaps as many as eighty percent, were owned by Jewish families, but beyond these demographic realities, writers, cultural critics, political agitators, and consumers associated department stores with Jews in a variety of ways. This project investigates the ways in which “Jewishness” was inscribed onto the department store and early mass consumer society in Germany. Using political, literary, and commercial sources, it treats department stores as the setting for Germans’ explosive encounters with nascent mass consumerism and projections about Jewish power over German women and the German economy.