David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition proved an instant classic of Jewish studies on its publication a decade ago. Nirenberg, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, presents anti-Judaism as a structural discourse in the history of the West (and arguably in the history of the world at large). The figure of the “Jew,” and the bugbear of “Judaism,” he maintains, have served as epistemic tools for philosophers and theologians to define themselves – and Western civilization – over and against. In such a scheme, Judaism morphs from religion into foil, the Jew from living being into abstraction; and even societies hosting few or no Jews can entertain “Jewish questions.” Nirenberg’s study starts in the Egypt of the Hellenistic Period and ends in our own time.
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