Antisemitism (short-term project, 2018-19)

Organized by Justin Cammy, Jewish Studies, and Lois Dubin, Religion

The purpose of this short-term Kahn project is to discuss antisemitism in its historical and contemporary dimensions.

The very word antisemitism was coined in Germany in 1879 to denote an ideology that considered the integration of European Jews in rapidly changing nation-states highly problematic. Antisemites developed a racial, biological conception of Jews as radically and inalterably different from the majority, saw Jews as powerful but often hidden conspiratorial antagonists, and promoted the political mobilization of hatred and violence against Jews. However, the phenomenon of distrust and prejudice against Jews and Judaism has a much longer history, from ancient times to the present, and contains both religious and secular elements. While drawing on religious legacies, modern antisemitism has produced new and often contradictory views of Jews and Judaism. Antisemitism is present in majority-Christian, majority-Muslim, and supposedly secular societies, and co-exists with ideologies of both the right and the left.

Among the questions we wish to consider:

  • How has this long hatred persisted and morphed into new forms in different societies and conditions, in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere? 
  • How does current antisemitism resemble and interact with other forms of racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and white supremacy?
  • How is antisemitism distinctive? 
  • Why are many people reluctant to address antisemitism explicitly and afraid to name it? Why do many prefer to speak only in generalities of prejudice or racism or xenophobia?
  • Why do many remain committed to a narrow definition of antisemitism that situates it only in one location or one side of the political spectrum, right or left?

We wish our discussions of antisemitism to be multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, drawing on many diverse approaches to history, religion, culture, the social sciences, the fine arts and natural sciences. We invite faculty and students to join in a series of conversations in order to consider such questions through a variety of perspectives and methods.