CHID 111 A: History of the Present

Spring 2023
Meeting:
WF 10:30am - 12:20pm / PAA A110
SLN:
12272
Section Type:
Lecture
Joint Sections:
HSTCMP 111 A , JEW ST 289 B
Instructor:
THE MYTH OF JUDEO-CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION (SSC) ___ EXAMINES THE USE AND ABUSE OF THIS IDEA SINCE 9/11 AND THE LONGER HISTORIES OF RELIGIOUS AND RACIAL EXCLUSION IT OBSCURES. CROSS-LISTED WITH HSTCMP 111 AND JEW ST 289 B. THIS CLASS IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REGISTRATION BY AUDITORS OR ACCESS STUDENTS
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

History of the Present: The Myth of "Judeo-Christian Civilization"
CHID 111 / HSTCMP 111 / JEW ST 289
Nicolaas P. Barr, PhD

Heston Ten Commandments.webp

The Semitic race never understood civilization in the sense that we attach to that word.

— Ernest Renan (1857)

The transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.

— Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)

 

Since 9/11, influential academics, pundits, and politicians have invoked “Judeo-Christian Civilization” as the cultural foundation of “the West.” Who and what is included and excluded in this concept, and under what conditions? 

Scholars of Jewish history have long devoted attention to the central role played by Jews as “the Other” against which Christian European societies (and later, supposedly secular nation-states) have defined themselves. At times of economic, social, or political crisis, the Jewish people, as a small but distinctive minority, have been scapegoated and persecuted. In its most catastrophic form, the Shoah or Nazi Holocaust against the Jews (along with Roma and Sinti people, disabled people, queer and trans people, Black people, and others considered to be racially “undesirable”) was the genocidal attempt to eliminate to eliminate Jewish people, religion, and culture from the world. The attempt to identify a historical “Judeo-Christian” tradition, then, can only be understood as a post-Holocaust revision—one that may sometimes have been well intended to promote inclusion, but which also has troubling implications.

Given this violent history of exclusion, how, when, and why did “Judeo-Christian Civilization” become such a powerful concept? When we look at the popular emergence of the discourse of “Judeo-Christian Civilization,” we find few traces until the Cold War and, especially, the War on Terror, following the 9/11 terror attacks. Looking historically and critically at this supposed foundation of the present-day West, we see that the long history of anti-Judaism has never been separate from other discourses and practices of othering—most especially those of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim racism. In this course, we will recover some of the silenced traces of this interconnected history in order to better understand the nexus (or link) between race and religion in contemporary configurations of white supremacy and imperialism. 

Drawing from sources ranging from theology and art history to contemporary politics and culture, this course invites students to question this supposed tradition and consider alternative histories and future possibilities.

No previous knowledge is expected, and students of all backgrounds are welcome.

Learning objectives: 

  • Become familiar with the field of intellectual history and its relationship to other disciplines and fields of inquiry (e.g. philosophy, social and political theory, religious studies, literary and cultural studies)
  • Understand the nexus of race/religion as formed by distinct but interdependent discourses whose relationship has structured conceptions of “the West” from early Christianity to the present
  • Develop analytical reading, writing, and speaking abilities through critical interpretation and engagement with primary texts
  • Gain familiarity with diverse figures in the history of humanistic thought and their significance for understanding contemporary society from critical perspectives

Office hours: Thursdays, 2:00-3:00, and by appointment
https://washington.zoom.us/j/94081282472?pwd=bEFuOEhURlFCTmtELzMvcVh4REY0UT09 

Catalog Description:
Introduces students to thinking about social, cultural, and political issues of current relevance as objects of historical inquiry and about the role of historical argumentation in contemporary public debate. Offered: jointly with HSTCMP 111.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Credits:
5.0
Status:
Active
Last updated:
July 19, 2024 - 6:03 pm