Antisemitism: The Limits of History
Antisemitism has been called both an eternal religious hatred and an ultra-modern racial ideology. Scholars often cite its origins in the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church, yet its appearance predates Christianity by centuries. In modern times, antisemitism has thrived in Muslim societies in which no actual Jews live. These puzzles continue today: We live in a world suffused with antisemitism—yet no one can agree on a satisfactory definition of it. In this first-year seminar, we will explore this complex topic as an introduction to the contemporary study of history.
In the opening unit of the course, we will examine some classic theories of the history of antisemitism. Then in the second unit we will proceed to discuss key modern variations such as economic, cultural, and political antisemitism using a combination of primary and secondary sources. We will look at key thinkers (Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Vladimir Lenin, and Adolf Hitler, among others). In the third unit, we will use a case study of post-Holocaust antisemitism in the global 1960s to pursue an experimental multidisciplinary approach to contextual mapping of the spread of antisemitism. Each student will take one country and pursue an extended research assignment with related writing assignments keyed to the history of antisemitism in that country. This research assignment will include compiling data for an online digital mapping project that we will pursue together.
Readings will include David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013) and Walter Laqueur’s The Changing Face of Antisemitism (2006). Requirements will include active participation in class discussions, three short reaction papers (500-750 words), a bibliography essay assignment (500-750 words), and an independent research project culminating in a written research report (1500 words). This course satisfies the second writing requirement.