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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

Antisemitism in Sociohistorical Perspectives (3 cr)  
Günther Jikeli
JSTU-J 204 Social & Historical Topics in Jewish Studies (37920)
2nd 8 week course 
TR 4:00-6:30 (BH 337)

Irrational and often lethal hatred of Jews has a history of over 2000 years. The “Othering” of Jews and the entrenchment of difference has been a precondition for the exclusion of Jews. Antisemitism made its first appearance in the ancient world, later intensifying in waves in Christian Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Islamic countries. Antisemitic myths became deeply embedded in Western culture. Racial and genocidal antisemitism rose with 19th century nationalism and culminated in the attempt by Nazi Germany to indiscriminately wipe out every member of the Jewish “race”. After Nazism was defeated and the horrors of the Holocaust became public, antisemitism in its racist forms became illegitimate in most societies. However, somewhat curiously, antisemitic attitudes and behavior continue to be a worldwide phenomenon today. They are often manifested in irrational attacks against the Jewish State of Israel in a context of increasing political polarization, but also in distortions and denial of the Holocaust or in physical attacks against Jews. Hostile attitudes against Jews are often openly voiced in Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, but their frequency is increasing again in a number of Western countries, including the United States. What are the historical roots of antisemitism? Why and in what forms does antisemitism persist today? What are factors in society that advance or contain antisemitism?

We will examine the most significant antisemitic myths and events in their historical and social contexts, including the image of Jews as murderers of God, usurers, and conspirators, as well as the blood libel. Students will complete the course with an increased understanding of the irrational motives involved in antisemitism, how antisemitism is similar to and different from other prejudices, as well as the multiple sources from which antisemitism derives.

We will study antisemitism from multiple angles, including historical, social, philosophical, and psychological perspectives – through works that have become standard references on the subject of antisemitism as well as more recent works. Selected key antisemitic texts will also be discussed.