Martin S. Jaffee
Content varies from quarter to quarter.
While hatred of the “Other” is neither a necessary nor inevitable social institution, ideological formulations of hatred often play crucial roles in the construction and defense of collective identities. The hatred of Jews is a particularly useful context for exploring the nature of collective, institutionalized hatred. Antisemitism is, first of all, probably the oldest continuous tradition of hatred against a culturally-posited “Other.” Precisely because of its antiquity, moreover, antisemitism has been crucial to a wide variety of diverse cultural systems that have little in common apart from an institutionalized, socially reinforced, fear, suspicion and contempt for Jews as a group. Analysis of antisemitism, therefore, offers an excellent opportunity to construct comparative models of hatred as a social institution and to explore the role of ideologies of hatred in the construction of collective identities associated with religion, nationality, and ethnicity. By understanding more clearly the power that hostile beliefs about Jews have played in shaping the collective identities of antisemitic communities, we gain a variety of comparative tools for exploring the nature of other examples of institutionalized hatred.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
The course will include orientational lectures by the instructor and collective discussion and analysis of assigned readings.
1. Students should be prepared to discuss and critically evaluate all readings assigned for the appropriate class period. Well-informed, articulate, and timely contributions to the class discussions over the course of the quarter will be factored into the student’s final evaluation. 2. The course is divided into six units of from 2-4 sessions. On the final session of each unit, students should submit by e-mail a set of 3-4 fundamental “discussion points” that emerge from the unit. These will constitute the basis for discussion of that day’s material. Questions will not be graded. But students who fail to turn in questions for more than 1 session can get a grade no higher than 3.6 for the course.
Class assignments and grading
1. The midterm project involves the analysis of contemporary websites with antisemitic content. Students will submit a 5-7 page analytical essay that explores ways in which traditional antisemitic clichés are used to construct the identity of a contemporary religious, political, or ethnic community. 2. The final project is a 10 page essay on one of the following or a topic negotiated between me and the student: a. a critical evaluation of Gavin Langmuir’s definition of antisemitism b. a comparison of antisemitic representations of Jews found on two contemporary websites of ideologically unrelated organizations c. an interpretive essay exploring how the study of antisemitism illumines another area of religious, national, or ethnic conflict in which Jews are not involved d. a comparison of two antisemitic cultural systems, one from prior to the 16th century and one from after that century
The mid-term project is worth 40% of the final grade, and the final project is worth 60%.