Jewish Studies 462 / CHID 480 G
Nicolaas P. Barr, PhD (he/him)
Antisemitism, Racism, and the Lines of Solidarity
How is antisemitism related to other forms of racism, and how does this relationship bear on racial justice movements today? This course will explore these connections from both historical and contemporary perspectives. For a preview of the course themes, please watch the lecture below, from the Autumn 2020 lecture series "Lessons (not learned) from the Holocaust," sponsored by the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.
The course will culminate with a lecture and discussion with journalist Talia Lavin about her recent book, Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy.
Note: this course is taught remotely as a hybrid synchronous/asynchronous class, with regular live class meetings generally occurring on Mondays during the scheduled class period (4:30-6:20 PM PST; some exceptions due to university holidays).
Full Course Description
How is antisemitism related to other forms of racism, and how does this relationship bear on racial justice movements today? In both critical academic and social activist analysis, it has become common to refer to intersecting forms of oppression, highlighting the ways in which oppressions not only overlap but also mutually enforce each other. This insight is invaluable for developing forms of solidarity among different marginalized groups, who may otherwise be pitted against each other. As the African American author James Baldwin wrote of the combination of antisemitism and anti-Blackness in the context of mid-twentieth century Harlem, “the American white Gentile has two legends serving him at once: he has divided these minorities, and he rules.”
However, as Baldwin noted in the same essay, this tool of what we now call “white supremacy” does not mean that all marginalized groups are marginalized to the same degree or in the same way. In fact, within the U.S. context that Baldwin described, American Jews’ relative proximity to and/or assimilation into whiteness—itself a shifting, historical category—produced fault lines that have made solidarity against white supremacy a challenging but crucial goal. The differences are just as important to note as the commonalities among differently positioned groups, as well as individual differences within specific communities that cut across lines of gender, sexuality, class, race, ethnicity, and other identity categories.
In this seminar, we will examine these challenging issues from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Our goal is to gain greater clarity about why and how antisemitism and other forms of racism function in specific contexts in order to understand how the struggles against them are connected, as well as potential fault lines. We will develop our understanding and interpretive skills through careful reading and discussion of primary sources and secondary scholarship, learn from experts on contemporary formations of white supremacy, and pursue individual research projects about specific examples of anti-racist solidarity and its discontents.
Course Learning Objectives
• To understand racism as a form of power and a tool for governing human differences
• To trace histories of shared resistance to antisemitism and other racisms, as well as obstacles to solidarity against different oppressions
• To understand the function of antisemitism in contemporary U.S. and global white supremacy and consider implications for anti-racist thinking and activism
• To develop skills in reading, analyzing, and discussing primary sources, historical scholarship, and theoretical reflection about different forms of racism