2016-2017: For Her Own Good

“For Her Own Good” was a two-year research project conducted at the American Jewish Society, delving deep into the extensive archive of textual and visual materials encapsulating the life and legacy of Emma Goldman, once described as “the most dangerous woman in America.” Embracing a variety of sources from various archives and historical accounts, including the Emma Goldman Papers at UC Berkley’s archives, this research project intricately weaves together a narrative rooted in Goldman's journey, particularly focusing on a pivotal period of three months in the summer of 1917, when she faced trial, conviction, a two-year imprisonment, and subsequent deportation to Russia. Drawing inspiration from an array of existing texts, films, and exhibitions dedicated to Goldman, this project served as both a tribute and an innovative reexamination. It probed the themes of silencing, censorship, and the fundamental essence of freedom of speech, offering a nuanced perspective on these critical aspects in society. The culmination of this extensive inquiry materialized through diverse mediums, featuring an immersive installation, artist’s book, and scholarly contributions enriching the academic discourse around the subject by Dr. Shirley Behar. Initially presented in New York City, the reach extended to Jerusalem, earning recognition in both academic and journalistic circles, adding layers to the multifaceted narrative surrounding Goldman’s legacy.


Collaborating institutions: The Emma Goldman Papers, Berkeley Library, University of California; the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University; The Hathi Trust Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs Series: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs NYPL Digital Collection Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


Research outcomes:

·     Exhibition:For Her Own Good,” The American Jewish Historical Society (curator: Dr. Shirley Bahar); Mamuta Art Research Center, Jerusalem (curators: Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman).

·     Performance: For Her Own Good, participatory performance and archive. The piece was presented at The American Jewish Historical Society , Maaumuta Center, and Forward Union, NYC.

·     Publications:

O. Cnaani, For Her Own Good, artist’s book

S. Bahar, “In the Face of Silencing: Ofri Cnaani’s For Her Own Good, a Tribute to Emma Goldman,” The
American Jewish Society, 2017