anti-judaism - the western traditionSunday, April 27 / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm / Robinson Room, Miller Library

In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (Norton, 2013), David Nirenberg seeks “to demonstrate how different people put old ideas about Judaism to new kinds of work in thinking about their world; to show how this work engaged the past and transformed it; and to ask how that work reshaped the possibilities of thought in the future.”  Nirenberg traces the history of anti-Judaism across more than two millennia and argues that these ideas played crucial roles in the formation of Western thought itself.  In the process, he makes a programmatic case for the importance of attending to transhistorical continuities and for the power of ideas to shape and constrain the agency of future generations.  As Anthony Grafton observes, “Anti-Judaism is that rare thing, a great book, as much in its ability to provoke disagreement as in its power to shape future writing on the vast territory that its author has so brilliantly mapped.”  This discussion-oriented symposium will explore implications of Nirenberg’s work through a series of roundtable conversations; panelists will circulate short papers in advance to fellow participants and registered attendees.  To register, please contact David Freidenreich; the event is free and all are welcome.

10:00 am  Welcome

  • Kerill O’Neill, Director of the Center for the Arts and Humanities
  • David Freidenreich, Pulver Family Associate Professor of Jewish Studies

10:15 am  Roundtable 1: The Politics of Anti-Judaism

How do ideas about Jews and Judaism contribute to conceptions of the proper political order, strengthen the identity of one’s own political community, and serve as a means of discrediting that community’s non-Jewish rivals?  Panelists will consider the function of anti-Judaism within early Christian, medieval Islamic, and secular nationalist contexts, with particular attention to the benefits and limitations of applying David Nirenberg’s work to these cases.

  • Todd Berzon, Iliff School of Theology: “What can Eve Sedgwick teach us about Christian anti-Judaism?”
  • Michael Pregill, Elon University (Religious Studies): “Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism and the rhetoric of sectarian hostility in Islam”
  • Aidan Beatty, University of Chicago (History): “Jew regard for the law: National sovereignty and anti-Jewish imagery in Irish nationalist discourse”
  • Moderator: David Freidenreich, Colby College (Jewish Studies / Religious Studies)

11:45 am  Lunch (Camp & Bullock Rooms, Dana Cafeteria)

All symposium attendees are welcome to join us (nominal fee)

1:15 pm  Roundtable 2: Anti-Judaism and the Arts

How have ideas about Judaism shaped the production and reception of visual and performance art within Christian Europe?  Panelists will address the implications of David Nirenberg’s arguments on this subject for their own research into medieval art, early modern Spanish theater, and 19th-century Viennese music.

  • Véronique Plesch, Colby College (Art): “Anti-Judaism and the visual arts”
  • Baltasar Fra-Molinero, Bates College (Spanish): “Blacks, Muslims, and the phantom of Jewishness in seventeenth-century Spain”
  • Caroline Sawyer, Old Westbury College (History): “Salomon Sulzer’s cantorial art and ideas of music and the sacred in 19th-century Vienna”
  • Moderator: Megan Cook, Colby College (English)

2:45 pm  Coffee Break / Poster Session: Anti-Judaism and Muslims (Wormser Room, Miller Library)

How have Christians used ideas about Jews to think about Muslims?  In what ways do ideas about Muslims and Islam serve different functions within Christian thought than those about Jews and Judaism?  Colby students will present research on a medieval depiction of Muslims in scenes of Christ’s Passion, perceptions of Jews and Muslims among America’s founders, Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Address, and secular European critiques of ritual slaughter.

  • Sarah Jeanne Shimer ’16, “The Jewless anti-Judaism of Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Address”
  • Anna Spencer ’16, “The violent Saracens as Jews in a 13th-century Passion illustration of Jesus Christ”
  • Spencer Traylor ’15, “Why do contemporary secularists care about ritual slaughter?”
  • Ben Zurkow ’15, “Thomas Jefferson, Jews, Muslims, and religious liberty”

3:30 pm  Roundtable 3: The Historiographic Implications of Anti-Judaism

David Nirenberg challenges three common norms of contemporary historiography in Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition.  He scarcely addresses the thoughts and actions of Jews, he regards ideas themselves as bearing sufficient power to shape the course of history, and he crafts a history of thought that encompasses 2700 years.  Panelists will reflect critically upon the advantages and drawbacks of these deviations from historiographic norms.

  • Alex Novikoff, Fordham University (History): “Intellectual history and ‘habits of thought’ in the study of anti-Judaism”
  • Kenneth Stow, University of Haifa (History): “Purity and its preservation: Thoughts on David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism
  • David Nirenberg, University of Chicago (History)
  • Moderator: Daniel Lord Smail, Harvard University (History)

Hosted by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, Jewish studies program, and religious studies department; co-sponsored by the New England/Maritimes Region of the American Academy of Religion, the Pugh Center, the Pugh Community Board, and the history department.