# 120 / Editorial

Race et histoire dans les sociétés occidentales [Race and History in Western Societies], by historians Jean-Frédéric Schaub and Silvia Sebastiani, is a major contribution to the understanding of racialization processes. Beginning with the late Middle Ages, the authors describe the evolution of the notion of race as a means of naturalizing social relations in order to prevent the dynamics of social mobility that are characteristic of modern societies. This long-term perspective helps us to better understand contemporary uses of the notion of race, which has a long European history. The Jews occupy a central place in this history, long before the racial biologization of the late 19th century and the extermination policies of the 20th. From the challenge of identifying Jewish converts to Christianity, to the misrepresentation of the notion of “election” to justify hierarchies, Bruno Karsenti and Julia Christ and the authors of this major book return to the centrality of the Jewish question in the problematic of “race”.

Mitchell Abidor visited the New York Jewish Museum’s exhibition exploring the long and fascinating history of the Sassoon family. A story that takes us from Iraq to England, via India and China. The Sassoons proclaimed themselves descendants of King David, were described as the “Rothschilds of the East”, spoke Judeo-Arabic as well as Hindustani before converting to English civilization. Through a rich selection of works collected by members of the family over the years, the exhibition tells the story of the gradual integration into Europe of an Iraqi Jewish family who turned into British aristocrats. 

Vladimir Medem (1879-1923) is a central figure in the history and memory of the Jewish socialist party Bund [Algemeyner yidisher arbeter bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland – General Jewish Workers’ Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia]. A leading theorist on the Jewish national question in the Russian Empire, Vladimir Medem – whose death this year marks the centenary of his death – distinguished himself not only through his writings and political activities, but also through the singularity of his personal trajectory. Born into a wealthy Russian family who converted to Christianity, Medem returned to his Jewish identity through his socialist activities, in contact with the Jewish workers of Minsk. A convinced Bundist, within a few years he had become a member of the party’s governing bodies, and worked to promote the Yiddish language and culture. Constance Pâris de Bollardière looks back at Vladimir Medem’s personal and political life.

The book by historians Jean-Frédéric Schaub and Silvia Sebastiani – Race and History in Western Societies (15th-18th centuries) – intersects with many issues familiar to readers of Revue K. It recounts the construction of the concept of “race”, as it plays out in racist thought, as a process spanning several centuries, from the imperialist Ancien Régime to the modern period. It thus offers a much richer history of racism than those often limited to the scientistic theories of the late 19th century. Above all, the book places the “Jewish question” at the heart of its history of the concept of race: election, obstinacy and the invisibility of differences are all problems that Christian societies have encountered in their relationship with the Jews, and whose mark racism bears. Interview with the authors.

The Sassoons proclaimed themselves descendants of King David, were described as the “Rothschilds of the East” and spoke both Judeo-Arabic and Hindustani before converting to the English language. Mitchell Abidor, who visited the exhibition ” The Sassoons “, currently on show at the Jewish Museum in New York, tells us their story.

This year marks the centenary of the death of Vladimir Medem (1879-1923), a great theoretician of the Bund and the Jewish national question in the Russian Empire, considered in connection with socialist internationalism. Vladimir Medem was renowned for his writing and political activities. Constance Pâris de Bollardière discusses the singularity of his personal journey. Medem’s memoir, published in New York in 1923, will form the fabric of this evocation.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.